TikTok under fire after 10-year-old girl tragically dies in viral choke challenge
Rome, Italy - A ten-year-old girl strangled herself to death at home in Palermo, Sicily, after participating in a so-called "blackout challenge" on the social network TikTok.
The young girl named Antonella tied a belt around her neck while recording the moment with her phone. The trend encourages users to choke themselves until they pass out for several seconds.
After her sister found Antonella passed out in her room, she was rushed to the hospital on January 20. However, doctors were unable to save her and declared her brain-dead, a spokesperson for the Di Cristina hospital in Palermo confirmed on Friday.
The Italian Data Protection Authority, a parliamentary body, demanded that TikTok immediately suspend accounts for which it could not verify the age of the user.
The Italian judiciary and youth protection officials launched investigations into the circumstances of the young girl's death. Police also examined Antonella's smartphone, according to the local newspaper La Repubblica.
A TikTok spokesperson said the company was ready to help the relevant authorities with their investigations, in a statement published by news agency Adnkronos.
TikTok under fire in Italy after girl's death linked to challenge
Palermo's mayor Leoluca Orlando said he and probably the whole city were "in shock," in a Facebook post.
He said a debate about how young people use smartphones and social media is long overdue, "especially in the time of this pandemic, which has pushed us more and more towards digital communication."
Psychologists and youth experts cited in the media on Friday called for lawmakers to consider tightening up laws on children's use of mobile phones and social networks.
"My daughter, my little Antonella, who dies because of an extreme game on TikTok: how can I accept it,” Antonella's father, Angelo Sicomero, told La Repubblica.
He and his wife decided to donate Antonella’s organs so that "other children can live thanks to her."
Cover photo: imago images / Hans Lucas