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Is a popular social media app to blame for accidental deaths?

On Behalf of | Aug 5, 2022 | Wrongful Death |

Kids are especially vulnerable to the influence of what they see and hear online. Younger children are particularly likely to try certain things they hear or see on social media apps, such as TikTok. One troubling trend recently seen on the popular app was the blackout challenge, which encouraged users to choke themselves to the point where they black out. Two young girls died as a result of this trend, and their parents are taking action. 

The parents filed a lawsuit against TikTok, claiming that the algorithm showed their children a dangerous trend. They say that this contributed to the deaths of the 8- and 9-year-old children. In the lawsuit, the parents state that the app knew it was addictive for young users, and that it was responsible for failing to remove the dangerous content or provide adequate warnings to either the users or their parents. 

Social media’s influence on young people 

This tragic incident is an example of how children are often unable to properly understand what they see on social media. TikTok often shows users specific content based on the types of videos they viewed previously and the types of content they liked. The legal representative for the plaintiffs says that the social media company should have done its due diligence to remove harmful content as soon as possible. In addition to the claims made by these parents, another parent states that her 10-year-old daughter also died after trying the blackout challenge. 

While TikTok is refraining from commenting on the ongoing litigation, a spokesperson for the company says that the blackout challenge trend actually predates the platform. There is debate about the use of parental controls and what children can and should be able to view on social media. These parents claim TikTok is accountable for directing their children to videos that they may not be able to properly understand and that may encourage dangerous behavior. 

Seeking justice and determining liability 

There is no clear standard of determining whether a social media platform is responsible for what Texas users do after viewing content. A loved one is entitled to seek justice through the form of a wrongful death claim if he or she believes that another party played a role in what happened to the decedent. Identifying responsible parties and seeking justice can be a complicated process, and claimants will benefit from seeking the appropriate guidance before they move forward.