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Robert E. Craven & Associates Rhode Island Personal Injury Attorney

Tik Tok Challenge Deaths: Who Is Liable?


It’s probably no surprise that the internet, and social media, has a lot of things that you may not want your child involved in. Unfortunately, there have been a number of deaths related to videos or challenges that have been placed on social media site, Tik Tok, all leading to wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits.

Tik Tok Challenges

Tik Tok routinely has what are informally known as challenges. Some are harmless, like jumping into cold water, or doing something similar, to show support for a cause. But others aren’t so harmless, and in fact, can be dangerous.

The challenges are not made or promoted by Tik Tok itself, but rather by independent users who start a “movement,” challenging others to do certain tasks.

The Blackout Challenge

One recent challenge was called the blackout challenge. The challenge was for users to video themselves being choked until they blacked out. Of course, impressionable kids and teens tried the challenge, and some died in the process.

Lawsuits were filed by the parents of some of the deceased kids, and the legal question became how liable should Tik Tok (or any social media site) be, for the actions of its users? Is Tik Tok just a passive platform, or does it have a more active responsibility in monitoring user behavior and eliminating things that could be dangerous to other users?

Parents and Tik Tok Face Off

Of course, the parents of the deceased argue the latter. They note that it wouldn’t be hard to have age verification tools on the platform, or for Tik Tok to find out about these “challenges” and strike the videos with the challenges from the site.

In fact, some parents have alleged that the challenges are good for Tik Tok’s bottom line; they attract younger users, and thus, Tik Tok’s advertising revenue goes up.

Tik Tok takes the opposite view. It contends that it is a social media site and not a parent, and thus, it is the parents that have the ultimate responsibility to monitor kids, or keep them off the site completely. Tik Tok contends that dangerous challenges have always happened and will always happen, regardless of whether they originate on a Tik Tok platform or not.

Knowledge Matters

The issue may be one of knowledge. A website or social media platform can’t be held responsible for every single post or video from every single user.

But when something dangerous starts to become well known, or when the site has knowledge that something dangerous is being posted, it may then have a more active responsibility to take down dangerous challenges.  With full knowledge of an apparent danger, a site cannot just turn a blind eye to something that could cause harm to others—especially when it knows that minors are on, and using their site.

Contact our Rhode Island personal injury lawyers at Robert E. Craven & Associates at 401-453-2700 today if someone in your family has been injured because of the actions of a large company or online site.


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