The parents of a 16-year-old who died by suicide a year ago traveled to Washington, D.C. for a TikTok hearing, a day after they filed a lawsuit against the social media platform and its parent company for the wrongful death of their son.
Dean and Michelle Nasca openly wept as Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) testified on their behalf about the death of their son, Chase. They claim he died by suicide after TikTok targeted more than 1,000 videos to him promoting self-harm, hopelessness, and suicide. The TikTok hearing in the House Energy & Commerce Committee included testimony from TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew.
“Mr. Chew, your company destroyed their lives,” Bilirakis said. “I admire [the Nascas’] courage to be here and share Chase’s story in the hopes that it will prevent this from happening to other families.
“The content in Chase’s For You page was not a window to discovery as you boldly claim in your testimony. It wasn’t content from a creator that you invited to roam the Hill today or STEM education that children in China see,” he continued. “Instead, his For You page was sadly a window to discover suicide.”
The grieving parents, with the help of Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC), are suing TikTok, Inc. and ByteDance, Inc. for Chase’s death in Suffolk County Supreme Court. According to the lawsuit, Chase began using TikTok in October 2021.
Despite searches that included bench press tips, Attack on Titan opening song, Trae Young best moments, Batman, and gym motivation, among others, TikTok continuously fed him depressing content, the lawsuit claims.
“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.”
Bergman also noted that in China, teens are directed to educational videos. He claimed the United States should focus more on child safety in the congressional hearings, which were also focused on TikTok’s impact on national security.
Chase died by suicide after being struck by a Long Island Rail Road train in Islip on Feb. 18, 2022 while on his way home from the gym and after messaging a friend on Snapchat “I can’t do it anymore.”
The Nascas also named Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), MTA Long Island Railroad and Town of Islip in the lawsuit for the “dangerous environment around the train tracks which led to his death,” according to SMVLC.
If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is 988. The Long Island Crisis Center‘s crisis hotline is also available 24/7 at 516-679-1111.