Parents Suing TikTok Over Teen Son's Death Make Emotional Appearance at Congressional Hearing

Chase Nasca, 16, died in February 2022 after viewing "highly depressive, violent, self-harm and suicide themed content" on TikTok, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed this week

The parents of a teenager who died by suicide last year became emotional during a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday as the CEO of TikTok gave testimony in front of Congress to address lawmakers' concerns about the social media platform.

Chase Nasca died at age 16 on Feb. 18, 2022, according to a press release from The Social Media Victims Law Center, which filed a wrongful death lawsuit in New York on Wednesday against TikTok, Inc. and its parent company, ByteDance, Inc.

The lawsuit alleges that Chase began seeing videos containing "highly depressive, violent, self-harm and suicide themed content" in October 2021, and accuses TikTok's algorithm of directing harmful content to the teenager's feed.

"TikTok selected and sent thousands of unsolicited suicidal videos directly to Chase's 'For You' page even though he had never searched for such material," the press release says.

Chase's parents, Dean and Michelle Nasca, were recognized by Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis during Thursday's hearing on Capitol Hill, which TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew attended to answer questions posed by lawmakers.

Related:Bipartisan Group of Attorneys General Announce Investigation into TikTok's Impact on Children

"I admire their courage to be here and share Chase's story in the hopes that it will prevent this from happening to other families," the Florida lawmaker, 60, said as the parents became emotional.

During his time questioning Chew, Bilirakis claimed that TikTok's algorithm promotes harmful content to young people. That algorithm, he added, "destroyed" Chase's life, and the lives of those who loved him.

The content on Chase's "For You" page, Bilirakis said, was "a window to discover suicide."

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"It is unacceptable, sir, that even after knowing all these dangers, you still claim that TikTok is something grand to behold," Bilirakis told Chew.

The congressman then played a series of three- to five-second clips of various videos that he said express hopeless and helpless thoughts, as well as suicide ideations. One clip shown was taken from the hit Hulu series The Bear.

In response, Chew said during his testimony that TikTok takes mental health issues "very seriously" and provides resources "for anyone who types in" anything related to suicide.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Suffolk County, argues that Chase did not search for the content, but rather the platform "purposefully sent Chase more than 1,000 videos promoting suicide, hopelessness and self-harm in order to maximize his level of engagement on the platform," which led to "higher ad revenues for TikTok."

"The suit alleges that TikTok directed Chase to adult accounts which offered depressing and violent material a minor should not have been allowed to see," a press release from The Social Media Victims Law Center states. "These accounts were co-creating content with TikTok, including TikTok suggesting dark, suicide-themed songs they could use to make their videos more impactful, as well as trending hashtags they could add to ensure maximum amplification based on TikTok's programming, and other material contributions."

Related:Parents Sue TikTok After Daughters Die Doing 'Blackout Challenge': 'We Want People to Be Aware'

During Thursday's hearing, Chew touted the company's latest efforts to make the social media platform a safer space for young people, including a 60-minute limit per day for users under 18.

washington post/youtube
washington post/youtube

TikTok has also implemented parental controls that allow adults to do things such as block particular keywords and enable what's called "Restricted Mode," according to TikTok's website.

Chew also acknowledged the need to address medical misinformation that can appear on apps like TikTok. "This is a problem that faces our industry that we need to really invest and address this," he said at Thursday's hearing.

Rep. Bilirakis called on his colleagues to pass more comprehensive data privacy laws for the sake of the country's children.

"We must save our children from Big Tech companies like yours that continue to abuse and manipulate them for your own gain," he said.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to

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