An investigation into the accidental death of a 10-year-old girl who allegedly took part in a #blackoutchallenge on the video-sharing network TikTok was opened by Italian prosecutors.
The probe came as Italy announced that it had temporarily blocked users whose age cannot be proven while accessing TikTok.
Users must be at least 13 years of age, according to TikTok’s terms and conditions.
The Girl allegedly playing #Blackoutchallenge on TikTok was discovered on Wednesday by her five-year-old sister in the family bathroom with her cell phone. The phone was later seized by police. Nevertheless, the girl died in a Palermo hospital.
Owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, TikTok said on Friday that it had not been able to identify any content on its website that might have encouraged the girl to take part in any such challenge. The company has still agreed to help the authorities in investigation of possible “incitement to suicide.”
Medical experts have warned about the risk of some young people taking up the challenge. It is often termed as “scarfing” or “the choking game” which results in limited oxygen to the brain. The parents of the girl told La Repubblica newspaper that another daughter explained that “the blackout game was being played by her sister.”
“There was nothing we knew,” the girl’s father told the paper.
“We didn’t know that she was in this game. We knew that (our daughter) was going to TikTok to dance and to watch videos. How could I have envisioned this atrocity?” he said.
In December, the Italian data protection agency filed a lawsuit against TikTok, alleging a “lack of attention to the protection of minors” and criticizing the ease with which very young children could sign up for the video app.
In 2018, TikTok went global and built its rapid success on parodies, messages, and short dance or comedy video performances set against popular music. The social media platform uses an algorithm to determine which content is most likely to interest each user.
The young girl’s death has provoked strong reactions in Italy and calls for better social network regulation.