WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that TikTok isn’t liable for the death of a 10-year-old girl who tried the “Blackout Challenge.”
- The deadly challenge encouraged people to choke themselves until they pass out.
- The judge said that TikTok was immune from the lawsuit under a section of the federal Communications Decency Act that protects publishers of third-party content.
A Pennsylvania federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit accusing TikTok of causing the death of a 10-year-old girl who tried the “Blackout Challenge.”
The deadly challenge, which became popular on the video-based social media platform, encouraged people to choke themselves until they pass out.
U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond ruled that TikTok was immune from the lawsuit under a section of the federal Communications Decency Act that protects publishers of others’ work.
“The wisdom of conferring such immunity is something properly taken up with Congress, not the courts,” Judge Diamond wrote.
Taiwanna Anderson, the girl’s mother, had sued TikTok and its parent company ByteDance in May after the death of her daughter, Nylah Anderson.
Jeffrey Goodman, the family’s lawyer, said in a statement that Andersons would “continue to fight to make social media safe so that no other child is killed by the reckless behavior of the social media industry.”
Anderson said she found her daughter unconscious in December 2021 after trying the blackout challenge using a purse strap hung in her mother’s closet. She was taken to a hospital where she died five days later.
TikTok and ByteDance asked for the dismissal of the suit, pressing that under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the companies could not be held liable for publishing third-party content. Though Judge Diamond said that the girl’s death was “tragic,” he sided with the platform.
More social media companies, including Meta Platforms Inc — Facebook and Instagram parent company — and Alphabet Inc, YouTube parent company, are facing an increasing number of lawsuits in the U.S. The plaintiffs seek to hold these companies liable for causing young people to become addicted to their products, sometimes leading to harm including eating disorders, self-injury and suicide.