Family sues TikTok after daughter, 9, dies from blackout challenge

·News Reporter
·3-min read

Devastated parents are suing TikTok following the death of their nine-year-old daughter who allegedly died while participating in the viral "blackout" challenge.

Arriani Jaileen Arroyo, from the US state of Wisconsin, died by "self-strangulation", the family's lawyer said and was found "hanging by her dog’s leash" by her five-year-old brother.

The viral challenge, also known as the "choking" or "pass out" challenge, encourages users to choke themselves with belts, purse strings or other similar items until passing out.

It's been claimed that Arriani — who received a phone for her eighth birthday — was attempting the challenge after becoming "obsessed" with the platform.

Arriani Jaileen Arroyo, who died after TikTok challenge, pictured left and also right with her mum and dad
Arriani Jaileen Arroyo, 9, suffered from "permanent, irreversible brain damage" after attempting TikTok's "blackout" challenge. Source: GoFundMe/Good Morning America

"This is not easy, to wake up every day and know that your little girl is never coming back," Arriani's mother Christal Arroyo Roman told Good Morning America on Saturday.

"We just never thought that there was a darker side to what TikTok allows on its platform," she added.

The parents "did not regard [the challenge] as dangerous" because most of them [challenges] "involved eating and dancing," said Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC) which is representing the Arroyo family.

Challenge caused 'permanent, irreversible brain damage'

When Arriani's brother saw her "affixed to the door of her room," he immediately grabbed their dad who was working in the basement.

"She had been in this condition for at least a half-hour in front of her 5-year-old brother," SMVLC said.

The young girl was rushed to a nearby children’s hospital where she was placed on life support.

"Testing revealed that Arriani had permanent, irreversible brain damage and complete loss of brain function, and her family made the difficult decision to withdraw life support," SMVLC said.

'TikTok needs to be held accountable,' lawsuit claims

The legal firm has filed two wrongful death lawsuits — one for Arriani and one for another girl Lalani Erika Renee Walton, 8, who died the same way three months later.

The lawsuit alleges that TikTok’s dangerous algorithm "intentionally and repeatedly pushed the deadly 'Blackout Challenge' into both Lalani and Arriani’s TikTok 'For You Page' incentivising them to participate in the challenge that ultimately took their lives".

The suit also alleges that TikTok is an "addictive product that's not safe for users," and "fails to warn minors and their parents" of the "harmful content that could endanger their wellbeing".

Arriani Jaileen Arroyo posing for social media photos
The nine-year-old became "obsessed" with Tiktok, a lawsuit claims. Source: GoFundMe

"TikTok needs to be held accountable for pushing deadly content to these two young girls," said Matthew P. Bergman, founding attorney of SMVLC.

"TikTok has invested billions of dollars to intentionally design products that push dangerous content that it knows are dangerous and can result in the deaths of its users."

But Patrik Wikstrom, a professor from the Queensland University of Technology, said it'll be a tough case to win.

"I believe it is very unlikely that the parents will be able to successfully show that TikTok bears the responsibility for their daughter's death," he told Yahoo News Australia.

"This is always very sad, and for sure, peer pressure and social media fame can probably contribute to some young people engaging in these dangerous activities. In the olden days, young people used Tumblr, Facebook, etc, now they use TikTok."

Family warn others of internet 'dangers'

In a GoFundMe page set up by the family it says they aim to "bring awareness to the dangers that exist on the internet," which they attribute to her death.

"Her parents are asking all parents to remain vigilant about what your children are being exposed to while using social media apps such as TikTok," the page reads.

"There are people who use the internet to spread dangerous challenges and trends that anyone at any age can access."

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