The deadly “blackout struggle” on TikTok has reportedly been linked to the deaths of at least 20 children in the past 18 months.
The popular challenge on the social media platform encourages people to strangle themselves with household items until they become unconscious and film the adrenaline rush once they regain consciousness.
According to data compiled by At least 15 of the children who died while taking the challenge were 12 years old or younger. Bloomberg Business Week. Five of the victims were 13 or 14 years old.
The blackout challenge is a modern incarnation of the suffocating guts that has been around for years but has been made accessible to children via social media platforms. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the “choking game” killed 82 young children when it first appeared in 2008.
TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, have been sued by parents who claimed their children died as a result of the mortal challenge.
According to the report, in February 2021, a nine-year-old girl in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, allegedly choked to death after a metal dog collar was wrapped around her neck while trying to struggle to faint.
10-year-old Antonella Sicomero was found hanging from a towel rack in Palermo, Italy. His family said he died playing an “extreme game on Tiktok”.
Following his death, the Palermo prosecutor’s office opened an investigation, and Italy’s privacy watchdog ordered the video platform to remove users from the country that it could not verify were over 13 years old.
When a group from Trust and Safety reviewed every video clip she watched, they found that, like many kids her age, she claimed to be over 13 when she created a TikTok account.
As a relief for TikTok, the team found no evidence that the app’s algorithm recommended challenging Antonella.
Following Antonella’s death in 2021, TikTok agreed to reaffirm the ages of 12.5 million users in the country and deleted half a million accounts.
But the deaths continued.
In December 2021, 10-year-old Nylah Anderson died at her home in the suburb of Philadelphia after catching her breath with the strap of a handbag. Her mother found cell phone videos of her and her cousin playing the drowning game.
When reported to the police, an officer wrote in the incident report that his cousin said, “What they saw on Tiktok and YouTube was a stranglehold.”
“TikTok sent him a video encouraging him to put a bag on a coat hanger, put his head between the bag and the shoulder strap, and hang himself until he faints,” Nylah’s filed a lawsuit against the video platform, stating. The mother reported to Bloomberg, citing forensic analysis of the girl’s phone.
“The company knew without question that the problem of fatal blackouts was spreading through its apps, and that its algorithms were particularly feeding the problem of fainting children, including the deceased,” the complaint states.
However, lawsuits in the US to impeach TikTok and ByteDance failed as courts ruled that the company had immunity under the Communications Ethics Act, which prevents technology platforms from being held liable for content posted on their sites.
A recent survey by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) revealed that more than 1.6 million children’s social media accounts were mistakenly registered based on their adult age.
About 93 percent of 11-17 year olds say they have accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitch, Twitter or YouTube, while 24 percent misreport their age when doing so.