In a lawsuit, TikTok Inc. was held responsible for the death of a 10-year-old American child who reportedly took part in an online challenge in which participants choke themselves until they black out.
In this challenge, participants choke themselves with household items such as a shoelace or a power cord until they black out for a few seconds, then record the euphoric rush they experience upon regaining consciousness.
According to a federal court complaint filed this week, Nylah Anderson, the kid who spoke three languages, was found unconscious in her bedroom in suburban Philadelphia on December 7 last year.
As reported, before succumbing to her injuries, she spent five days in a paediatric intensive care unit.
The family of the deceased child sued TikTok, alleging that the social media site was negligent in promoting a defective online material and that the fatal dare “was shoved in front” of the girl by the platform on her “for you” page.
In the complaint, it was written that Anderson died because the algorithm determined that the deadly blackout challenge was well-tailored and likely to be of interest to her.
It should be noted that the complaint also included the name of TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance Inc—a Beijing-based tech company—as a defendant.
TikTok said in a statement that “this disturbing challenge” has long predated the platform and people learnt about it from other sources.
However, as per the filing, at least four children, who participated in the blackout challenge, have died.
The social media imbalance
There are countries where TikTok is banned including India.
Though according to Apptopia, TikTok was the most downloaded social media app in the world last year, apart from allowing dangerous online challenges on the platform, there are several issues with this app which has raised a concern.
The US government was on the verge of outlawing TikTok in the United States in August 2020 after then-President Donald Trump said he had evidence that ByteDance might take action that jeopardised the country’s national security, considering the relations between China and the US.
But last year, Trump’s successor Joe Biden clarified that he will not ban the platform. Rather he issued a new executive order to protect US information and communications technology from threats, including those from China.
However, according to some experts, those who use the app for more than 90 minutes may reduce their attention span over time. This forced TikTok to hire influencers who then ask users to take breaks and create pop-up warnings.
Separately, as per a study, published earlier this year by mobile company URL Genius, TikTok collects more personal data from users than any other social media app. As per the findings, the platform mostly allows third-party trackers to collect personal data, and it’s unclear what happens to it after that.
However, as reported, TikTok stated that the company has conducted its own test of its app, using the same method as the study, and discovered that any network contacts went to only four third-party domains, all of which the company claims are regularly used by other apps for functions such as network security and user certification.
It should be also noted that these third-party domains included Google, Apple, and Snap, as well as AppsFlyer, an advertising analytics firm that evaluates the effectiveness of marketing campaigns on the social media platform.