TikTok is a popular destination for viral challenges, but not all of them are positive. A prime example of this is the so-called ‘Blackout Challenge,’ which proves just how dangerous some social media trends can be. TikTok has come under increased scrutiny over the past couple of years and the service has been making changes to protect the community and users. However, dangerous trending challenges continue to be a problem.
TikTok is a much newer social app than Facebook, Twitter, and the rest. Regardless, it has already established itself as one of the most popular. With over two billion downloads and tens of millions of daily active users, TikTok reaches a very wide audience and one that can skew toward younger users. This combination has raised concerns before, and it’s one that doesn’t seem to be leaving TikTok any time soon.
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One of the most controversial examples of this is the TikTok Blackout Challenge. The Blackout Challenge went viral in April 2021 when 12-year-old Joshua Haileyesus was hospitalized after reportedly taking part in the dangerous trend on TikTok. Joshua’s family set up a GoFundMe campaign to help with his medical bills, but after 19 days of life support, Joshua passed away. While that April 2021 incident is when many people first heard about TikTok’s Blackout Challenge, it’s not the first time someone died because of it. Per an article from Newsweek, a 10-year-old girl in Italy also died from the Blackout Challenge in January of the same year.
What The TikTok Blackout Challenge Is
Many popular TikTok challenges are just a fun way to upload new content that other platform users are interested in viewing. However, the Blackout Challenge is almost purpose-designed to be dangerous. The goal of the Blackout Challenge is for someone to choke themselves up until the point of losing consciousness while uploading the results to TikTok.
To be clear, the challenge did not start on TikTok and is not exclusive to the platform either. According to a 2018 TIME report, the same ‘choking game’ was previously referred to as the ‘Pass Out Challenge’ with millions of related videos found on YouTube at the time. However, the Blackout Challenge version does appear to have picked up traction through the TikTok app in recent times, and as reported, with deadly consequences. To its credit, TikTok has tried combatting the trend. If someone searches ‘blackout challenge’ in the app today, TikTok shows safety resources instead of any related videos. It’s a helpful step to keep the dangerous trend off of the platform but, unfortunately, it isn’t perfect.
The TikTok Blackout Challenge In 2022
Despite TikTok’s efforts to keep the Blackout Challenge off of the app, there are still ongoing reports of it in the news. In May 2022, Tawainna Anderson filed a lawsuit against TikTok after her 10-year-old daughter — Nylah Anderson — died while attempting the Blackout Challenge. As argued by Tawainna’s lawyer, R￼obert J. Mongeluzzi, “TikTok’s algorithm sent what was essentially a how-to asphyxiate yourself video, disguised as a challenge, to a 10-year-old. It is inexcusable.”
TikTok’s History With Dangerous Challenges
This is not the first time that a popular TikTok challenge has raised concerns over the dangerous behaviors it encourages. Back in 2020, the Skull Breaker Challenge emerged with videos of unsuspecting people being tripped over and usually by more than one person. Due to the unknowing participant involved in the TikTok Skull Breaker Challenge, and how the action was seemingly designed to ensure the duped person landed on their back or head, many reports of serious injuries quickly surfaced as a result.
Even if the Skull Breaker Challenge and Blackout Challenge are both eradicated from TikTok, there’s nothing stopping another dangerous challenge from going viral with users. That’s been a side effect of social media from the very beginning, and as we’re seeing with these TikTok challenges, violent/harmful trends will always find a way to live on.