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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 8 March 2021

Italy blocks TikTok for certain users after girl dies allegedly playing the 'blackout challenge'

The dangerous viral challenge asks participants to asphyxiate themselves

Italy has blocked TikTok accounts where users' age cannot be verified. Reuters
Italy has blocked TikTok accounts where users' age cannot be verified. Reuters

Italy has temporarily blocked access to TikTok for certain users after prosecutors opened an investigation into the death of a 10-year-old girl, who allegedly participated in the "blackout challenge".

In a statement, Italy's data privacy watchdog said it was too easy to flout the video-sharing app's rule to ban registration for children aged under 13.

It has installed a ban on accounts where ages cannot be verified until at least Monday, February 15.

The ruling came after a young girl was found dead of asphyxiation in Palermo, Sicily last week. Her parents said she had been taking part in the so-called blackout challenge, also referred to as "scarfing" or "the choking game", in which participants restrict their oxygen until they pass out. It is similar to the Pass Out Challenge, which became popular in early 2020.

“We didn’t know she was participating in this game," the girl's father told la Repubblica newspaper. "We knew that [our daughter] went on TikTok for dances, to look at videos. How could I imagine this atrocity?"

Prosecutors have now opened an investigation into whether someone invited the girl to take part in the challenge.

The watchdog said the app 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".

New Delhi banned the wildly popular TikTok app in June, citing national security and privacy concerns. AFP
New Delhi also banned the wildly popular TikTok app in June 2020, citing national security and privacy concerns. AFP

This means users of unverified accounts are no longer able to upload videos or interact with others on the platform.

The data protection agency said it had already raised concerns with TikTok in December, citing a "lack of attention to the protection of minors" and criticising how easy it is for underage children to sign up to the platform.

Updated: January 24, 2021 01:08 PM

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