THIS IS no conventional game that can be downloaded from an app store on the mobile, but a journey into the dark side of the internet in which links lead to more links into a world of manipulation of the vulnerable.
The Blue Whale Challenge is not easy to find on the internet and its existence is itself shrouded in mystery at least for those not having access to it. The deadly social media trend is now said to be taking lives of gullible teenagers, who are already battling the raging hormones of their age.
The ‘suicide game’ has its origins in Russia where many a ‘death group’ — provoking users to carry out some dangerous tasks — were spotted in 2013 and now the trend has travelled across the world, including India. The game is played through social media sites including the popular Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where a user searches for a curator or administrator who then gives them a challenge to perform each day for the next 50 days before asking them to end their life.
A search related to the game on the social networking sites leads to a dangerous set of hashtags with desperate teenagers looking for the curator to provide them a link where they can find the game and start performing the tasks. The administrator of the game or the set of challenges also asks the users to submit photographic evidence of the tasks. Many users have also alleged that the curators tell players they now have access to all their personal information and threaten to leak their information into the public domain to force compliance.
The whole communication takes place through private messaging, even on WhatsApp, which has made it difficult for the investigating agencies to find anything concrete to curb the menace. While the government has also asked the social media sites to take down any links to the game, the authorities also concede it is impossible to make the game inaccessible as in reality it is only a conversation between the prey and the predator.
“It is a social media phenomenon when conversations about this take place secretively in closed social media groups. You can only be part of the game if an administrator contacts you and enlists you as a potential whale, or candidate,” a document released by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights reads. NCPCR underlines the need for parents to look out for any signs that might indicate their child’s inclination towards the game.
As a precaution, the social networking sites like Instagram have also now started a warning message for those looking for the game through their search engines. “Posts with words or tags you’re searching for often encourage behaviour that can cause harm and even lead to death,” reads a popup message on the photo-sharing site if you type ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ in the search.