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  • TikTok Asked To Block Underage Users After Death Of 10-Year-Old In 'Blackout Challenge'

    The challenge involves putting a belt around the neck and filming a video while holding your breath.
    by Kitty Elicay .
TikTok Asked To Block Underage Users After Death Of 10-Year-Old In 'Blackout Challenge'
PHOTO BY Shutterstock/Ascannio
  • The Italian data privacy watchdog has ordered video-sharing social networking app TikTok to block users who have not verified their ages and accounts following the death of a 10-year-old child who was using the app.

    According to reports, a young girl died of asphyxiation in Palermo, Sicily, after participating in a “blackout challenge” on TikTok. The challenge was to put a belt around her neck and hold her breath while recording herself on her phone.

    Reuters reports that the girl’s father, Angelo Sicomero, told local newspaper Corriere della Sera, “TikTok was her world. And YouTube. That’s how she spent her time.”

    Prosecutors have opened an investigation and are looking at the possibility that the girl was urged to commit suicide. They are also checking whether someone invited the girl to participate in the challenge.

    “The watchdog decided to intervene as a matter of urgency following the terrible case of the 10-year-old from Palermo,” the authority said.

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    According to authorities, it is easy to circumvent TikTok’s rule on prohibiting registration for children under 13 years old. As a result, the app was banned from “further processing user data for which there is no absolute certainty of age, consequently, of compliance with the provisions related to the age requirement.”

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    With the ban in place, unverified accounts will no longer be able to upload or interact with other users on the platform. 

    The ban for unverified user accounts will last until February 15, 2021.

    A spokeswoman for TikTok in Italy said the app was analyzing the communication received from the Italian watchdog.

    “Privacy and safety are absolute priorities for TikTok and we are constantly working to strengthen our policies, our processes, and our technologies to protect our community and younger users in particular,” she said in an emailed comment as reported by Reuters.

    Although the minimum age requirement to join the app is 13 years old, there are users who are as young as 9 years old on TikTok. Issues that pedophiles are using the app to post sexually explicit comments and groom children have also been raised in early 2020.

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    This is also not the first time that a TikTok challenge has resulted into injury or death. In 2020, the Skullbreaker Challenge, which became popular on the app, reportedly caused several injuries in various countries like the U.S. and Brazil.

    The challenged involved a prank carried out by two persons to an unsuspecting individual. The “victim” stands in the middle and the two show him what to do — jump in the air — and while he's off the ground, the two kick his legs from behind to throw him off balance. The "victim" is caught off guard and falls on the ground.

    In November 2019, a 16-year-old girl from Brazil hit her head on the ground after participating in the challenge while inside their school. She suffered a head trauma and died, according to newspaper Correio Braziliense.

    In November, the app released a family pairing feature so that parents can supervise their children and enable a variety of content and privacy settings.

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