On TikTok, the “choking challenge," a new challenge that consists in holding your breath as long as possible, is going viral. But far from the funny or superficial videos that often go viral on the social network, this challenge has resulted in the deaths of some young users.
One of TikTok’s latest controversies concerns the “choking challenge." Also known as the “blackout challenge," this practice involves holding your breath for as long as possible, until you pass out. This challenge is obviously extremely dangerous, with many experts sounding the alarm. It can cause fainting, brain damage, convulsions, lifelong disabilities and even death.
The “choking challenge" (or “blackout challenge") didn’t originate on social networks. This kind of “game" has been talked about for several decades, under various different names, including the “scarf game." It has been the cause of death for at least 82 American children and teenagers (from 6 to 19 years old) between 1995 and 2007, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
One of the latest victims was Milagros Soto, a 12-year-old Argentinean girl who was found dead in her home after participating in the challenge. Last summer, the Daily Mail reported that two British boys, Leon Brown, 14, and Archie Battersbee, 12, lost their lives to the same viral trend. The parents of the boys filed a complaint against TikTok, which they believe is responsible for encouraging their children to engage in a dangerous practice.
Is the social network responsible?
Back in 2021, two American families filed a complaint against TikTok after the death of their daughters aged 8 and 9, who were, according to them, victims of the “blackout challenge." In their complaint, reported by the media The Independent, the parents singled out the ability of the algorithm to present dangerous, harmful, even deadly content for underage users.
In recent years, there has been much debate about young people’s use of the app. By constantly renewing content through algorithms, users could be likely to come across inappropriate, even upsetting content. And it’s not just on the app. According to a study by Nord VPN on 10-17-year-olds in France and their use of the internet, 3 out of 5 young people come across pornographic content, 34% of them on social networks.
TikTok has made attempts to restrict searches for videos linked to such challenges, however users have found they continue to show up before moderation or end up on other, less visible platforms.
A TikTok spokesperson told Australian media outlet 7news that the hashtag dedicated to the challenge has been banned from the platform for some time. “This means that when someone searches for it they are shown a message that links them to our safety center."
This isn’t the only dangerous challenge that has sparked controversy for purportedly being promoted on TIkTok. Others have promoted dubious dieting practices or beauty techniques, while some have even referenced suicide.
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