The families of two young girls who died attempting a TikTok challenge filed a joint wrongful death lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the algorithmically curated app.
For hours at a time, eight-year-old Lalani Erika Walton and Arriani Jaileen Arroyo, 9, watched videos of people attempting to choke themselves into unconsciousness in a new trend called the blackout challenge, the suit alleged, Los Angeles Times reported.
The young girls participated in the challenge with the hopes of garnering fame on social media but had died in their attempt.
According to the joint suit, Walton was found “hanging from her bed with a rope tied around her neck” while Arroyo was found “hanging from the family dog’s leash,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
TikTok challenges call on its users to perform the same task and post the video on the platform. These challenges are built around hashtags and can have a massive reach. Many of these challenges are videos of people dancing and lip-syncing to music, among other trends.
The blackout challenge is one of the many viral social media challenges that have surfaced with dangerous and life-threatening consequences to its participants. These include the "Benadryl challenge", which encourages the consumption of such tablets, the "fire challenge" which caused fire-related injuries to several participants, and the "Cha-Cha Slide challenge" which encourages reckless driving, and many others.
Legislation targeting online addition passed through the state Assembly in May and the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 28 in further efforts to hold major social media platforms accountable. Assembly Bill 2408 would allow parents to sue social media companies on behalf of their children.
The bill dubbed the "Social Media Platform Duty to Children Act", "would only apply to companies earning at least $100 million in revenue annually. Those in violation could face civil penalties of $25,000 per violation, or up to $250,000 per violation if it is done knowingly and willfully.
The request comes just months after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former lead product manager for Facebook’s division on civic integrity, disclosed internal documents from the company to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Haugen testified that Facebook actively attempted to recruit kids to their platforms regardless of the known detriments it would have on their mental health.