A mother is suing TikTok because she says her daughter died from a choking challenge that was allegedly recommended by its algorithm

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A mother is suing TikTok because she says her daughter died from a choking challenge that was allegedly recommended by its algorithm
TikTok was sued by a mother who alleged that the social-media app recommended her daughter a choking challenge. The 10-year-old girl died after taking part in the dare.Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.
  • A mother says her daughter died after trying out a choking challenge on TikTok.
  • She's suing TikTok and parent ByteDance for recommending her daughter the challenge.
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A Pennsylvania mother is suing TikTok and its parent company ByteDance for allegedly recommending a choking challenge to her daughter. The 10-year-old girl died after taking part in the deadly dare.

Tawainna Anderson said her daughter, Nylah Anderson, participated in a "blackout challenge" after it appeared on Nylah's "For You" recommendation page last December, according to a complaint filed on Thursday.

The "blackout challenge" dares participants to choke themselves with household items until they black out. They then regain consciousness and share a recording of the process with other TikTok users.

According to the complaint, Anderson found Nylah motionless in her bedroom on December 7 and rushed her to the hospital. The girl died five days later.

TikTok's "algorithm determined that the deadly Blackout Challenge was well-tailored and likely to be of interest" to Nylah, said the court document. That caused her death, per the document, which also named ByteDance as a defendant.

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According to the suit, the challenge resulted in at least four other deaths, but TikTok didn't correct its algorithm to prevent users from being exposed to it.

"The TikTok Defendants failed to take the necessary corrective action because it would result in less user engagement on the app and thus less corporate profits," per the complaint.

After Anderson first spoke to the media about her daughter's death, a TikTok spokesperson told the New York Post in December: "This disturbing 'challenge,' which people seem to learn about from sources other than TikTok, long predates our platform and has never been a TikTok trend."

The blackout challenge exists on other social media apps too, but a forensic analysis of Nylah's mobile phone showed that she was using TikTok for the challenge, an attorney for Anderson told Bloomberg.

A TikTok spokesperson told Insider that the company is not commenting on the lawsuit. A search for the hashtag "#blackoutchallenge" on TikTok by Insider showed no results on Friday.

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Dangerous challenges have plagued most of the major social media platforms.

Last year, TikTok users filmed themselves engaging in a dangerous milk crate challenge, in which people would climb unsecured milk crates stacked in a pyramid. And in 2019, YouTubers shared videos of them completing common tasks blindfolded, including driving. There was also the infamous 2017 "Tide Pod" challenge where young people challenged each other to eat laundry detergent capsules and post their reactions on social media. Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram later removed the videos.

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