NEW YORK — A Long Island couple are suing the company that owns TikTok, claiming videos on the popular social media app glorified suicide and led to the death of their son.
Dean and Michelle Nasca claim in the lawsuit that the app directed more than 1,000 videos promoting suicide, despair and self-harm to the “For You” page of their 16-year-old son, Chase. The couple allege that TikTok sent the videos to Chase, even though he never searched for any of those terms.
The teenager jumped in front of a Long Island Rail Road train in 2022.
“I would especially like to see these types of videos that my son was receiving stop being promoted,” Michelle Nasca said.
The lawsuit claims that TikTok worked with certain accounts to share depressing and violent material that was not intended for children, but was accessible to them. The platform also made suggestions for the videos to be further amplified based on its programming and algorithm.
Parents said Chase had no history of anxiety or depression and began being targeted for dark content accounts beginning in October 2021. On February 18, 2022, after going to the gym to train , he pulled over on the train tracks and messaged a friend on Snapchat, simply saying “I can’t take it anymore.”
TikTok did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit until Friday afternoon.
The Nasca family and their attorney traveled to Washington, DC, on Thursday for a congressional hearing on TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance.
“We seek to hold TikTok accountable for engaging in dangerous and harmful practices that put our children at risk of self-harm, all in the name of ‘committing’ to increasing their ad revenue,” the statement said. attorney Matthew P. Bergman before the hearing. “To maximize user engagement and increase profits, TikTok creates and co-creates harmful content and deliberately targets children in the United States with violent, dangerous, extreme and psychologically disturbing content that they cannot leave eyes.”
Another central question at the hearing was whether TikTok posed a threat to national security, given a Chinese law that could allow the country to access user data. Republicans and Democrats are concerned that China is using the app as an information-gathering tool here in the United States.
New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone joined other lawmakers in questioning TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew about the platform’s alleged ties to the Chinese government, as well as data protections users.
“Under our bill, you can only use the data for your own purposes, not to sell it to anyone. Would you agree not to sell it to anyone?” asked Rep. Pallone, to which Chew said he supported some rules.
“I didn’t ask you about the rules, I asked if the company, TikTok, would commit to not selling their data to anyone,” Pallone replied. Chew said he would “get back to (Pallone) on the specifics of that.”
The CEO said the company’s priorities were to protect and secure user data. Despite this, dozens of states have already banned or restricted TikTok on government devices. The White House has given the company an ultimatum: sell the app or face a total ban in the United States.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling 988, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting text “Home” to 741741 anytime. .