aOn Tuesday morning, Antonella Secomero’s funeral took place in Palermo, in the Church of Santissima Trinita della Magoni in the heart of the old town. With the great sympathy of the population – provided that hygiene and distance regulations allow for this in times of a pandemic. The ten-year-old appears to have lost her life on Wednesday evening in a serious test of courage on the video app Tiktok. An autopsy confirmed on Monday that the death was a result of suffocation after suffocation with a belt.
Political correspondent for Italy, the Vatican, Albania and Malta, based in Rome.
Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando announced Thursday that he is “in shock with the entire city”. Orlando ordered flags on public buildings to be raised to half-mast on Friday. He also asked all schools in the city to commemorate Antonella Secomero with a minute of silence. The girl was found lifeless by her sister and her parents in the bathroom with a belt around her neck. Antonella asked her father for the belt. After the tragic death of his daughter, he expressed himself hopelessly in interviews: How could he get over the fact that he innocently gave Antonella the belt that she ruled shortly after her life. In an interview with radio and television stations, he stated that his daughter loved the world of Tiktok, YouTube and Instagram, and that he trusted her: “My daughter loved to dance and sing. She was looking for likes and followers, and I never thought that she would participate in a game like this.”
The girl had suffocated herself with her belt, apparently to post a video on a mobile phone that she had recorded for a courage test known as the “Hanging Challenge” or “Blackout Challenge” on Tiktok. According to media reports, the investigators have not yet succeeded in unlocking the girl’s cell phone, as it appears that Antonella changed the unlock code for her cell phone before participating in the “challenge”.
Account deletion is required
Italian data protection official Guido Scorza finally asked Tiktok to delete all app participant accounts by February 15th, as the age of the participants cannot be clearly determined. Scorza threatened Tiktok with potential fines in the millions if the company failed to meet the demands. Tiktok has shown its willingness to collaborate in principle, but it appears that it has not yet started deleting accounts in large measure. Regarding the possibility that the motive for the fatal accident may have come from another app, data protection advocate Scorza said another case against Tiktok has been pending since December 20 for failing to respect minors’ privacy.
Privacy advocates in Italy are calling for app operators to obtain parental consent from participants under the age of 14. Tiktok itself sets a minimum age of 13. A company spokesman said Tiktok’s “priority” was safety. So far, however, Antonella’s posts and other participants from her environment have not found any requests for serious “challenges”. The application developed by a Chinese company, in which participants in dancing and singing post short videos, is very popular among children and young people.
According to media reports, Tiktok is used by about ten million subscribers in Italy every month, especially the youngest social media users. Experts warn of a blanket condemnation of platforms like TikTok. Ultimately, it is up to the parents and legal guardians to support their children in using social media responsibly. Young psychiatrist Stefano Vicari from Rome said there are good reasons why children under 12 should not be allowed to use social networks on their cell phones alone.
“Devoted gamer. Webaholic. Infuriatingly humble social media trailblazer. Lifelong internet expert.”