Mother Blames TikTok For Daughter’s Death in ‘Blackout Challenge’ Suit

Mother Blames TikTok For Daughter’s Death in ‘Blackout Challenge’ Suit

The mother of a 10-year-old girl who died after allegedly trying a dangerous online “challenge” has sued Culver City-based TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance, claiming the social media app’s algorithm showed her videos of people choking themselves until they pass out.

Nylah Anderson, an intelligent child who already spoke three languages, was “excruciatingly asphyxiated” and found unconscious in her bedroom on Dec. 7, according to a complaint filed Thursday in federal court in Pennsylvania. She spent five days in pediatric intensive care until succumbing to her injuries.


The lawsuit, filed by her mother Tawainna Anderson, claims TikTok’s algorithm had previously shown Nylah videos depicting the “Blackout Challenge,” in which people hold their breath or choke themselves with household items to achieve a euphoric feeling. That encouraged her to try it herself, the lawsuit alleged.

“The TikTok Defendants’ algorithm determined that the deadly Blackout Challenge was well-tailored and likely to be of interest to 10-year-old Nylah Anderson, and she died as a result,” the suit said.

In a previous statement about Nylah’s death, a TikTok spokesperson noted the “disturbing” challenge predates TikTok, pointing to a 2008 warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about deadly choking games. The spokesperson claimed the challenge “has never been a TikTok trend.” The app currently doesn’t produce any search results for “Blackout Challenge” or a related hashtag.

“We remain vigilant in our commitment to user safety and would immediately remove related content if found,” the TikTok statement said. “Our deepest sympathies go out to the family for their tragic loss.”

At least four other children or teens have died after allegedly attempting the Blackout Challenge, according to the Anderson lawsuit. TikTok has grappled with dangerous challenges on its platform before, including one in which people tried to climb a stack of milk crates. That was considered so dangerous that TikTok banned the hashtag associated with it last year. In February, TikTok updated its content rules to combat the dangerous acts and other harmful content.

The Anderson lawsuit comes as lawmakers and state attorneys general scrutinize how TikTok and other social media can be bad for teens and younger users, including by damaging their mental health, causing negative feelings about their body image and making them addicted to the apps.

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Steve Huff
Steve Huff is an Editor and Reporter at dot.LA. Steve was previously managing editor for The Metaverse Post and before that deputy digital editor for Maxim magazine. He has written for Inside Hook, Observer and New York Mag. Steve is the author of two official tie-ins books for AMC’s hit “Breaking Bad” prequel, “Better Call Saul.” He’s also a classically-trained tenor and has performed with opera companies and orchestras all over the Eastern U.S. He lives in the greater Boston metro area with his wife, educator Dr. Dana Huff.
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