An Italian TikTok influencer has been accused by police officers of "inciting suicide" after a 10-year-old from Palermo, Sicily, died in a botched challenge that went viral on the video-sharing platform earlier this month. The woman posted a video of her performing the "blackout challenge" without restrictions, the police said.
On Jan. 20, victim Antonella Sicomero was found unconscious with a belt tied around her neck in her bathroom. Her parents rushed her to a Palermo hospital, where she later died. Antonella's sister informed their father that Antonella had been taking part in the blackout challenge.
During the investigation, law enforcement authorities came across the blackout challenge videos by the 48-year-old woman. The video showed the influencer and an unidentified man covering their faces "so that they could not breathe," police reportedly said.
While the officials did not ascertain whether Antonella viewed the influencer's videos, they accused the woman of posting the "extremely dangerous" video on TikTok without restrictions. She posted several such risky challenges, "which allowed her to gain popularity and the attention of 731,000 followers of different ages," police reportedly said. They also said that such videos "could be emulated by minors."
'Instigation to Suicide' Cases Opened
Two investigations for "instigation to suicide" have been opened in Palermo following Antonella's death. Authorities earlier ordered ByteDance-owned TikTok to block access to all users whose age has not been confirmed. At present, TikTok allows users aged 13 and above to use its service.
Following Antonella's death, TikTok said it did not identify any content on its platform that could have encouraged the girl to participate in the dangerous challenge. However, the company said that it was helping the officials in the investigation over possible "incitement to suicide."
"The safety of the TikTok community is our absolute priority, for this motive we do not allow any content that encourages, promotes or glorifies behaviour that could be dangerous," a spokesman for TikTok said at the time.
In recent years, TikTok has become a hub of several challenges — some of which have been dangerous, including the blackout challenge. In this challenge, a participant is required to tie a belt around their necks in a bid to halt oxygen to the brain and pass out. The idea is to go unconscious temporarily and wake up suddenly.
The blackout challenge is similar to the "passout challenge," which requires participants to shake their heads until they pass out. The blackout challenge is also known as the choking game or the fainting game and predates TikTok.