Nov. 29, 2022 – The game had a name: the blackout challenge. Kids around the world were choking themselves with household items until they blacked out, filming the adrenaline rush they got regaining consciousness and then posting the videos on social media. It’s a modern incarnation of choking dares that have been around for decades, only now they’re being delivered to children by powerful social media algorithms and reaching those too young to fully grasp the risk.

There was no press coverage of Arriani’s death, and TikTok didn’t learn about it for months. But the company was aware that kids not old enough to have profiles on its app were dying doing the blackout challenge. In the weeks before, TikTok’s trust and safety team, which works to protect users and defend the company’s reputation, had begun investigating a similar incident in Palermo, Sicily. A 10-year-old girl, Antonella Sicomero, had been found hanging from a towel rack in January with a bathrobe belt around her neck. Antonella’s parents told local media she’d died playing “an extreme game on TikTok.” The Palermo prosecutor’s office opened an investigation, and Italy’s privacy watchdog ordered the social network to remove any user in the country whose age it couldn’t verify as being over 13, alleging that it was failing to abide by its own rule to keep preteens off the app.


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