Parents Sue TikTok After Daughters Die Doing 'Blackout Challenge': 'We Want People to Be Aware'

Two girls died last year while attempting the viral “Blackout Challenge” on TikTok and now their parents have filed a lawsuit against the social media platform.

via People:

On Feb. 26, 2021, Arriani Jaileen Arroyo died of suffocation after trying the controversial challenge, where social media users strangle themselves until they’re unconscious, her family says. She was 9 years old.

Her father, Heriberto Arroyo Roman, and mother, Christal Arroyo Roman, have since sued TikTok, alleging that “at all times relevant, TikTok’s algorithm was designed to promote ‘TikTok Challenges’ to young users to increase their engagement and maximize TikTok’s profits,” according to Good Morning America.

TikTok has previously said that the challenge “long predates our platform and has never been a TikTok trend.”

“This is not easy, to wake up every day and know that your little girl is never coming back,” Arroyo’s mother told GMA Thursday. “We just never thought that there was a darker side to what TikTok allows on its platform.”

She described Arriani as smart, fashionable and generous; and recalled how doing nails and dancing were some of her late daughter’s favorite activities.

Arriani’s family started a GoFundMe last year to raise money for her funeral expenses, bringing in more than $5,000 of their $10,000 goal.

“This beautiful soul was wise and intelligent beyond her years. Her future was exceptionally bright. We can’t count how many hearts she filled with her joy, energy, and magnetic personality,” her family wrote, adding that she was “obsessed” with her 5-year-old brother and “loved all of her siblings.”

After her death, her father found Arriani’s journal where the child wrote “about how happy she was.”

Sending a warning to other parents, the GoFundMe asks them “to remain vigilant about what your children are being exposed to while using social media apps such as TikTok.”

The parents of Lalani Walton, 8, and the Social Media Victims Law Center also joined the lawsuit. Lalani died from strangulation and suffocation when attempting the challenge last July.

“She will always be remembered as a talented singer, having an outgoing personality, and had the biggest pretty eyes,” Lalani’s family shared in her obituary, adding that her dream was to be a rapper. “She enjoyed spending time with her family. dressing up as a princess, and doing her makeup. She collected LOL dolls and her favorite color was pink.”

Arriani’s father Heriberto told GMA he hopes their legal action helps stop other families from facing the same tragedy.

“We just want people to be aware, because we don’t want no other children out there to be a statistic of this situation again,” he said. “We want to make sure that we can save other kids.”

In court documents obtained by The Los Angeles Times, the families and the Law Center allege that Arriani “gradually became obsessive” with TikTok. In February 2021, her brother Edwardo told their father that Arriani had stopped moving. Heriberto went to check on her and found her “hanging from the family’s dog leash.” She later died at a local hospital after being put on a ventilator and becoming brain dead.

The following July, due to Tiktok’s algorithm, Lalani began seeing the “Blackout Challenge” on the platform, her family said in the lawsuit according to the Times. She viewed videos of the challenge during a 20-hour car ride with her family. Shortly after returning home, Lalani’s stepmother found her “hanging from her bed with a rope around her neck.”

Police checked her phone and discovered that Lalani had viewed videos of the challenge “on repeat” and was “under the belief that if she posted a video of herself doing the ‘Blackout Challenge,’ then she would become famous,” per the filing.

In a statement to The Washington Post in May, a spokesperson for the platform said the deadly challenge was never a TikTok trend.

“[The] 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 spokesperson said at the time, adding, “We remain vigilant in our commitment to user safety and would immediately remove related content if found.”

They added that TikTok has blocked the #BlackoutChallenge hashtag from being searchable.

TikTok did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

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