TikTok Is Sued After Challenge-Based Deaths
Usually when there is a so-called “challenge” on social media TikTok, it’s often involving some kind of reckless or ill-advised behavior, and a recent challenge is no different. What is different this time is that families of victims who took the “challenge” are now suing TikTok.
Lawsuit After Blackout Challenge
The lawsuits are related to deaths of teenagers who took what is known as the “blackout challenge” on TikTok, a challenge that invites social media users to choke themselves until they pass out.
The lawsuit says that the videos showed up on the girl’s “For You” feed, a feed that suggests things that users may like, based on past online behavior. The lawsuit says that the girls, as being underage, were particularly vulnerable, and should never have been shown such suggestions-particularly not without any kind of warning.
The girls were both found in their rooms, having tried to hang themselves, in an action that parents and the lawsuit claims was not suicide, but rather, was just trying to abide by the challenge.
No Age Verification
The lawsuit says that there was a collection of these videos, that were curated by TikTok (through algorithms) and then shown to the girls. It also says that to young teenagers, the content and challenges found on TikTok are “addictive.”
The lawyers for the families say that a system of age verification before users see certain kinds of content would be easy and affordable to implement, but no such verification is currently used on the platform. The suit also alleges that TikTok knows that some kids are too young to even have an account, but that they are not kicked off the site, because the site wants to expose the kids to advertisements which fuel TikTok’s revenue.
Not the First Lawsuit
TokTok has been sued before–and has been sued for this exact challenge. But TikTok says that many of these challenges spread by word of mouth, outside the app, and that TikTok hardly instructs these challenges to users. Additionally, TokTok points out that dangerous challenges that induce susceptible teenagers to engage in reckless behavior have existed long before the social media site.
This isn’t the first “challenge” to generate controversy; previous challenges often invited kids to eat Tide Pods, or to climb on milk crates, or to take high amounts of Benadryl.
Be Careful With Access by Minors
The case is a lesson that there can be liability when companies allow children to access content that they should not. There is certainly a fine line—for example, many lawsuits that tried to sue video games for exposing kids to violence, have met with mixed success. But social media creates a different legal question, and courts may be more willing to hold companies liable for exposing kids to any dangerous content, even if the companies aren’t the ones creating the content.
Call our Boston personal injury attorneys today at The Law Office of Joseph Linnehan, Jr. at 617-275-4200 for help getting compensation for your injuries if you or a loved one have been injured by the carelessness of another person or company.