Italy has chosen a strong measure against the preferred social network of young people, even very young people. Friday, January 22, the announcement of the death of a 10-year-old girl in Palermo (Sicily) who participated in a « black-out challenge » in the family bathroom caused a shock in the country. She had put a belt around her neck with the goal of staying breathless as long as possible – a practice known as “Scarf game” -, while checking in with his cell phone.
In the process, the Authority for the protection of personal data indicated in a press release “Block the social network” Chinese TikTok with immediate effect and until February 15, when he must have responded to his injunctions. The firm must give itself the means to verify the age of its users “With absolute security”. The Italian authorities wish to make it impossible to create an account if a user does not provide proof of his age.
Investigation for incitement to suicide
The inscription of the young Antonella “Has not been refused by the company” despite his young age, “Less than the 13 years minimum provided for by the platform”, emphasizes the Data Protection Authority. It was her five-year-old sister who discovered her unconscious body. Taken immediately to the Palermo Children’s Hospital by her parents, she did not survive.
For its part, the Palermo public prosecutor’s office indicated that it had opened an investigation for “Incitement to suicide”. The girl’s cell phone has been seized by investigators, who will need to determine if Antonella was live with other participants, if someone invited her to participate in the challenge, or if she was making this video for a friend or knowledge.
Many young people post videos with the word hash « blackout challenge » presenting all kinds of physical challenges, most of them not serious. The “Scarf game”, in which children block their breathing until they pass out to experience strong sensations, causes accidents each year, some of which are fatal.
Lack of attention to the protection of minors
Parents told La Repubblica daily that they did not know she was participating in ” this game “. “I knew that Antonella was going to TikTok for choreography, to see videos”, explained his father. “But how could I imagine this atrocity? My daughter, my little Antonella who dies from extreme gambling on TikTok: how can I accept it? “
TikTok, a popular but controversial app
In response to this tragedy, the platform launched in 2016, which claims 100 million users in Europe, issued a statement: “The safety of the TikTok community is our top priority, we are at the disposal of the competent authorities to collaborate in their investigation”. Questioned by the Italian press, she also assures that she has not found any evidence of a content that could have encouraged this tragedy.
The Italian Data Protection Authority had already launched proceedings against TikTok in December 2019. It criticizes it in particular for its “Lack of attention to the protection of minors, the ease of bypassing the registration ban for the little ones and the lack of transparency and clarity of the information given to users as well as the predefined settings that do not respect privacy “.