TikTok has come under scrutiny in Italy after a 10-year-old girl died attempting the "blackout challenge." The incident prompted Italian authorities to order TikTok to block access to users who did not confirm their minimum required age as per the company's policies.
On Wednesday, Antonella Sicomero's five-year-old sister found her unconscious with her mobile phone in their bathroom. Her parents rushed her to a Palermo hospital, where she later died.
Antonella's father was informed by his second daughter that Antonella had been taking part in a TikTok challenge, La Repubblica reported. "We didn't know anything about it," her father told the news outlet.
Law enforcement authorities seized the girl's phone for investigation. Meanwhile, officials ordered TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, 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.
The Italian Data Protection Authority said in a statement on Friday that it would "block the [Chinese] social media network" with immediate effect until Feb. 15. Licia Ronzulli, President of Italy's Commission for childhood and adolescence called the move "right and timely."
"The safety of minors must be protected at all costs and we cannot, as happened in Palermo, allow a social network to be an accomplice in a suicide," Ronzulli said on Twitter.
On Friday, TikTok said it did not identify any content on its video-sharing platform that could have made Antonella take part in the extreme challenge. However, the company said that is 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.
What is Blackout Challenge?
The blackout challenge requires participants to tie a belt around their necks until it restricts their oxygen to the brain and pass out. The idea is to go unconscious temporarily and wake up suddenly. Antonella Sicomero had a belt tied around when she was found lifeless in the bathroom, according to reports.
The challenge is similar to the "passout challenge," in which participants are required to shake their heads until they pass out. The blackout challenge, which is also known as the choking game or the fainting game, has been around for at least two decades.