The suit alleges that TikTok purposefully directed dangerous self-harm content to Chase which resulted in him taking his own life by stepping in front of a moving train
SUFFOLK COUNTY, N.Y.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Social Media Victims Law Center, a legal resource for parents of children and teenage victims harmed by social media addiction and online abuse, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against ByteDance, Inc. and TikTok, Inc. in the February 18, 2022 death of Chase Nasca, 16, from Suffolk County, New York.
The lawsuit, which was filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Suffolk County (Index No: 607250/2023), alleges that TikTok, which is owned by Chinese Company ByteDance, Ltd., purposefully sent Chase more than 1,000 videos promoting suicide, hopelessness and self-harm in order to maximize his level of engagement on the platform resulting in higher ad revenues for TikTok. TikTok did not select this deadly content for Chase based on his search history (which included topics such as Bench Press Tips, Kitchen Hacks, Attack on Titan Opening Song, Trae Young Best Moments, Batman, and Gym Motivation, among others) or on the TikTok creators he was “Following.” Instead, TikTok selected and sent thousands of unsolicited suicidal videos directly to Chase’s “For You” page even though he had never searched for such material.
“We are seeking 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 ‘engagement’ to increase their ad revenues,” said Matthew P. Bergman, founding attorney of SMVLC. “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 from which they cannot look away.
“In China’s version of TikTok, minors 14 and under are limited to 45 minutes per day online and are directed to science experiments, museum exhibits, patriotic and educational videos,” Bergman added. “While the United States government has primarily been focused on protecting our national security, they need to focus more on protecting our nation’s children.”
On Thursday, March 23, Chase’s parents, Dean and Michelle Nasca, will travel to Washington, D.C., to attend the Congressional House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing where TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify before lawmakers, who continue to push for a ban over the social media app’s data security and privacy practices.
Dean and Michelle will be at the hearing to lend their support for more oversight of TikTok and the dangers it poses to minors and young adults in the pursuit of more profits.
They also hope that their support of lawmakers’ efforts to rein in TikTok will highlight the dangers that TikTok poses to minors and young adults through unwanted and dangerous content that could lead to mental health crises and ultimately self-harm.
The lawsuit also seeks to hold the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), MTA Long Island Railroad and Town of Islip, responsible for negligence that created a dangerous environment around the train tracks which led to his death. Over the last 20 years, at least 30 people have been struck and killed by trains within a half mile of the intersection of Fairview and Railroad Avenues in cases involving both suicide and accidental death.
About Chase Nasca
Chase was a smart and outgoing child who excelled at school, was athletic and participated in competitive sports. He had no history of anxiety or depression, had a supportive family and close friends, and in late 2021, was accepted to the Olympic Development Program soccer team.
Chase got his first cell phone when he was in 6th grade after moving to middle school so his parents could reach him if needed. To his parents’ knowledge, Chase did not open a TikTok account at that time but cannot be sure because TikTok does not verify age or require parental consent for a minor to open an account.
In October of 2021, TikTok started to direct Chase to dangerous and harmful accounts that promoted highly depressive, violent, self-harm and suicide themed content for Chase.
The suit alleges that TikTok directed Chase to adult accounts which offered depressing and violent material a minor should not have been allowed to see. These accounts were co-creating content with TikTok, including TikTok suggesting dark, suicide-themed songs they could use to make their videos more impactful, as well as trending hashtags they could add to ensure maximum amplification based on TikTok’s programming, and other material contributions.
On Friday, February 18, 2022, Chase went to the gym and worked out, then stopped at the train tracks on his way home. Chase messaged his friend on Snapchat, “I can’t do it anymore,” and was struck by a moving train.
About the Social Media Victims Law Center
The Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC), socialmediavictims.org, was founded in 2021 to hold social media companies legally accountable for the harm they inflict on vulnerable users. SMVLC seeks to apply principles of product liability to force social media companies to elevate consumer safety to the forefront of its economic analysis and design safer platforms to protect users from foreseeable harm.
About Matthew P. Bergman
Matthew P. Bergman is an attorney, law professor, philanthropist and community activist who has recovered over $1 billion on behalf of his clients. He is the founder of the Social Media Victims Law Center and Bergman Draper Oslund Udo law firm; a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School; and serves on the board of directors of nonprofit institutions in higher education, national security, civil rights, worker protection and the arts.
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