TikTok isn’t liable for the death of a 10-year-old girl who watched a so-called Blackout Challenge video that encouraged people to choke themselves, a judge ruled.
US District Judge Paul Diamond in Philadelphia said a federal law shielded the video-sharing platform from liability in the death of Nylah Anderson, even if the company’s app recommended the video to her.
The Blackout Challenge encourages viewers to videotape themselves choking to the point of passing out. Versions of the challenge have been posted on various platforms and have been blamed for the deaths of multiple children. Other wrongful death lawsuits against TikTok over the challenge are pending in federal courts in Oakland and Los Angeles.
Anderson was found hanging from a purse strap in a closet of her home in Pennsylvania in December 2021, according to court records. Her mother sued TikTok, claiming it had recommended the video to the girl on her “For You Page.”
In an eight-page ruling Tuesday, Diamond said even if the app had recommended the video to the girl, TikTok couldn’t be sued. Promoting a video to a user is “exactly the activity” that is shielded from liability under Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, he wrote. “The wisdom of conferring such immunity is something properly taken up with Congress, not the courts,” he added.
Congress added Section 230 to the 1996 law in an effort to shield online content providers from being buried under mountains of litigation based on the the content posted by users on their platforms.
A lawyer for the Andersons said the family disagreed with the judge’s interpretation of Section 230.
“The federal Communications Decency Act was never intended to allow social media companies to send dangerous content to children, and the Andersons will continue advocating for the protection of our children from an industry that exploits youth in the name of profits,” Jeffrey Goodman said.
The case is Anderson v. TikTok Inc., 22-cv-01849, US District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).