Wikipedia says that the Blue Whale Game (Russian: Синий кит, Siniy kit) was born in 2013 as an unofficial community on a VKontakte Social Network, with the aim of achieving a sense of superiority administrators, who induce passive players to suffering and suicide.
The game is based on the relationship between the challengers (“players or participants”) and the administrators; it involves a series of self-harm duties given by the administrators that players must complete in 50 days and the last task is suicide.
It was probably created by Philipp Budeikin, a psychology student who was expelled from university; he said his purpose was to “clean” society by pushing to suicide those he deemed as having no value.
The first case of suicide related to the game occurred in 2015 in Russia.
The Blue Whale has received significant media attention: several posts and articles report that it likely has led dozens children and adolescents from Russia (as well as from other countries) on the way to suicide. The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, albeit in an arbitrary manner, suggested a link between 130 suicides happened from fall 2015 to spring 2016, to this presumed digital brainwashing.
Anyway, actually we really don’t know either the game’s existence or its role in child and teenage suicides or acts of self-harm.
Wired.co.uk reports that an investigation by the UK Safer Internet Centre has failed to corroborate the claims. Online fact-checking website Snopes found that, although there have been reports of young people committing suicide in Russia over the past six months, there is inconclusive evidence tying them to the Blue Whale. Professor Sonia Livingstone from the London School of Economics told WIRED: “The importance of media literacy to identify and reject fake news is vital for everyone, but especially for parents whose anxieties about their children’s safety make them too easily to fall prey to clickbait designed to trap them. The responsibilities of journalists to check their facts and sources has also never been so great, as the Blue Whale scare illustrates clearly.”
Nonetheless, the implications of the phenomenon are important, at least from the sociological point of view, no matter if it is a false news or it is proven in some cases. Blue Whale phenomenon began in Russia, where the problem of adolescent suicide is widely acknowledged (in 2012, the rate of teenage suicides in Russia was three times higher than the world average), but now it has gone far beyond. Even if it was a fake, it may still be damaging. Every alarming news, every service that drives the macabre storytelling, every act of self-harm and violence automatically may fuel a vicious cycle of suggestion and discomfort. It is important to protect children from online dangers and also let them know the existence of support networks involved in offering help to people who need it.
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