Sat 23 January 2021:
Italian prosecutors have opened a probe into the accidental death of a 10-year-old girl who allegedly took part in a “blackout challenge” on the video-sharing network TikTok.
The girl died in a Palermo hospital after being discovered on Wednesday by her five-year-old sister in the family bathroom with her cellphone, which was seized by police.
The Italian data privacy watchdog ordered video app TikTok on Friday to block the accounts of any users in Italy whose age it could not verify.
In a statement, the regulator said that although TikTok had committed to ban registration for children aged under 13, it was nonetheless easy to circumvent this rule.
As a result, it said TikTok had to block unverified user accounts until at least Feb. 15 awaiting further information.
A spokeswoman for TikTok in Italy said the company was analyzing the communication received from the authority.
“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.
Medical experts have warned about the danger of the challenge being taken up by some young people, who refer to it as “scarfing” or “the choking game” in which restricted oxygen to the brain results in a high.
The girl’s parents told La Repubblica newspaper that another daughter explained that her sister “was playing the blackout game”.
“We didn’t know anything,” the girl’s father told the paper.
“We didn’t know she was participating in this game. We knew that (our daughter) went on TikTok for dances, to look at videos. How could I imagine this atrocity?” he said.
Her parents said she had been participating in a so-called blackout challenge on TikTok, putting a belt around her neck and holding her breath while recording herself on her phone.
“TikTok was her world. And YouTube. That’s how she spent her time,” the girl’s father Angelo Sicomero was quoted as saying in Saturday’s Corriere della Sera newspaper.
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Prosecutors have opened an investigation into possible incitement to suicide and are looking to see whether someone invited the girl to take part in the challenge.
“The watchdog decided to intervene as a matter of urgency following the terrible case of the 10-year-old girl from Palermo,” the authority said.
It said TikTok was banned from “further processing user data for which there is no absolute certainty of age and, consequently, of compliance with the provisions related to the age requirement”.
An official said this meant that users of unverified accounts would no longer be able to upload videos or interact with other people on the platform.
The watchdog said it had raised concerns with TikTok in December over what it called a series of violations, including allegations the firm had failed to protect minors.
It added that it had told the authorities in Ireland about its decision because TikTok has announced that it would run its European operations out of Dublin.
Death in Pakistan
On Saturday, an 18-year-old man was hit and killed by a train in Pakistan while being filmed walking along the tracks for a social media stunt.
Friends of the teenager told rescue workers he was posing for the video to post it on TikTok and his other social media accounts, rescue officials said.
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