Italy orders an age block on TikTok after a 10-year-old girl accidentally died taking part in a viral choking challenge

Sophia Ankel
·3 min read
tiktok
Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa via Gerrt via Getty Images
  • Italy has temporarily blocked access to TikTok for users whose age could not be proved definitively.

  • The ban follows the death of a 10-year-old girl who allegedly took part in the TikTok "blackout" challenge.

  • Experts have warned about the dangers of the challenge, which involves restricting oxygen to the brain to pass out.

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Italy's data protection watchdog has ordered TikTok to block access to users whose age cannot be confirmed after a 10-year-old girl accidentally died while taking part in a viral "blackout" challenge, according to her family.

The young girl from Palermo in Sicily was discovered on Wednesday by her five-year-old sister in the family bathroom with her cellphone.

According to the girl's parents, their other daughter explained that her sister "was playing the blackout game."

The game, otherwise known as the "pass out challenge" or "the fainting game," encourages participants to choke themselves until they pass out for several seconds, which is meant to result in a high.

Read more: Inside the rise of TikTok, the viral video-sharing app wildly popular with teens and loathed by the Trump administration

Italy's watchdog said that the temporary ban would last until February 15 as it continues to assess data privacy regulations.

"The Italian Data Protection Authority (GPDP) has ordered Tik Tok to immediately block the use of user data for which the age of the user has not been ascertained with certainty," it said in a statement.

TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, said on Friday that it was working with authorities. However, they also noted that they weren't aware of any content on the platform that could have led the girl to participate in the challenge.

"We have received and are currently reviewing the notification from Garante. Privacy and safety are top priorities for TikTok and we are constantly strengthening our policies, processes and technologies to protect all users, and our younger users in particular," a TikTok spokesperson told Insider.

Insider has also reached out to TikTok for comment.

The young girl's parents told a local newspaper ohat they weren't aware she was participating in the game.

"We knew that (our daughter) went on TikTok for dances, to look at videos. How could I imagine this atrocity?" the girl's father said, according to the Guardian.

The "blackout challenge" or "choking game" has been popular on social media for several years. Medical experts have warned that the trend is dangerous and that it can cause brain damage, seizures, and death.

"What is actually going on in the brain is a lack of oxygen similar to when someone is drowning, choking, or having a cardiac arrest," an Irish doctor told the Mirror earlier last year.

According to a 2019 study, around one in 10 teens and pre-teens have participated in the dangerous game at least once.

In the US alone, 82 children between the ages of 6 and 19 died after playing the game between 1995 and 2007, the most recent year with data available, according to a 2018 Times investigation.

While the federal government has not studied the issue since then, there are no signs the deaths have slowed, according to the report.

Read the original article on Insider