Blue Whale (game)

Last updated on 22 August 2017

The Blue Whale Game (Russian: Синий кит, Siniy kit) also "Blue Whale Challenge", is an Internet "game" that is claimed to exist in several countries. The game allegedly consists of a series of tasks assigned to players by administrators during a 50-day period, with the final challenge requiring the player to commit suicide.[1][2] The term "Blue Whale" comes from the phenomenon of beached whales, which is linked to suicide.

Blue Whale began in Russia in 2013 with "F57", one of the names of the so-called "death group" of the VKontakte social network,[3] and allegedly caused its first suicide in 2015.[4][5] Philipp Budeikin, a former psychology student who was expelled from his university, claimed that he invented the game. Budeikin stated that his purpose was to "clean" the society by pushing to suicide those he deemed as having no value.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12]

In Russia in 2016, Blue Whale came into broader use among teenagers after a journalist brought attention to it through an article that linked many unrelated suicide victims to the Blue Whale, creating a wave of moral panic in Russia.[13] Later, Budeikin was arrested and pled guilty to "inciting at least 16 teenage girls to commit suicide", leading to Russian suicide prevention legislation and renewed world-wide concern over the Blue Whale phenomenon.[11] It has also been linked to other rising self-harm trends, such as "human embroidery" in China.[14]

"Game" structure

The game is based on the relationship between the challengers (also called players or participants) and the administrators.[15][16] It involves a series of duties given by the administrators that players must complete, usually one per day, some of which involve self-mutilation.[4][17] Some tasks can be given in advance, while others can be passed on by the administrators on that day, the last task being suicide.[18][19]

The list of tasks, to be completed in 50 days, includes waking up at 4:20 A.M., climbing a crane, carving a specific phrase on the person’s own hand or arm, doing secret tasks, poking a needle to the arm or leg, standing on a bridge and roof, listening to music, and watching videos sent to the challengers by the administrator.[20] One of these music videos was originally for Norwegian singer Emilie Nicolas' upbeat song "Pstereo" (filmed in Scotland). It had been dubbed by the administrator and set to BENY's hauntingly somber remix of Australian singer Sarah Blasko's country-folkish song "All I Want" (video filmed in Victoria, Australia).[21]

List of tasks

  1. Carve a specific phrase on the person’s own hand or arm.
  2. Wake up at 4:20 a.m. and watch a scary video (sent by the curator.)
  3. Make lengthwise cuts on the person’s own arm.
  4. Draw a whale on a piece of paper
  5. Write “yes” on the person’s own leg if ready to be a whale. Otherwise, they should cut themselves multiple times.
  6. Secret task (written in code.)
  7. Scratch (a message) on the person’s own arm.
  8. Write a status online about being a whale.
  9. Overcome a fear.
  10. Get up at 4:20 and go to the roof.
  11. Carve a whale on the person’s own hand.
  12. Watch scary videos all day.
  13. Listen to music the “curator” sends.
  14. Cut your lip.
  15. Poke the person’s own arm/hand with a needle.
  16. Make yourself hurt or sick.
  17. Go to a roof and stand on the edge.
  18. Stand on a bridge.
  19. Climb a crane.
  20. At this step, the “curator” somehow checks to see if the participant is trustworthy.
  21. Talk with a “whale” on Skype.
  22. Sit down on a roof with legs dangling over the edge.
  23. Another job that is in code.
  24. A secret mission
  25. Meet with a “whale”.
  26. The “curator” assigns a date that the person will die.
  27. Visit a railroad.
  28. Do not talk with anyone all day.
  29. Give an oath/vow about being a whale
  30. After these steps, steps 30-49 involve watching horror movies and listening to music that the curator picks, talking to a whale, and making cuts.
  31. The last task is jumping off a building.

Reported cases

Argentina

In San Juan Province, Argentina, a 14-year-old boy was admitted to intensive care after participating in Blue Whale.[22][23][24][25][26]

In La Plata, the grandparents of a 12-year-old girl complained to a police station and expressed concern that she had wounded her arm with a sharp object due to Blue Whale.[27][28][29]

On 27 June 2017, 16-year-old Benjamín Palavecino died in the San Martín de Paraná hospital in the province of Entre Ríos. He had been hospitalized since 31 May 2017, after attempting to complete the final suicide challenge.[30]

Brazil

In Brazil, the game left victims in Mato Grosso,[31][32][33] and in the cities of Uberlândia,[34] Manhuaçu,[35][36][37] Pará de Minas and Belo Horizonte, in Minas Gerais,[38][39][40] as well as in Feira de Santana, Bahia.[41][42][43][44] In Juazeiro, also in Bahia, a girl supposedly disappeared because of the game.[45] In Rio de Janeiro, a mother managed to prevent the suicide of her daughter who played Blue Whale.[46] In the state of Paraná, the game claimed another victim in Florestópolis.[47][48][49][50] In Maceió, Deputy Pastor João Luiz (Christian Social Party) reported in the Legislative Assembly of Alagoas that his niece committed suicide under the influence of the game.[51][52]

In Paulista (Pernambuco), a girl gave testimony after being threatened in the challenge of the Blue Whale,[53][54][55] and in Recife a 19-year-old girl got to the penultimate stage of the game.[56][57] A 15-year-old student living in the municipality of Cabo de Santo Agostinho in the Recife metropolitan area was found by a man when she was on the parapet of the Buarque de Macedo Bridge in Recife, preparing to jump from it.[58] With several cuts on her arms, including one in the shape of a whale, she was thought to be attempting to complete the last phase of the challenge.[59][60]

In the state of São Paulo, in the capital, lovers Luis Fernando Hauy Kafrune and Kaena Novaes Maciel, aged 19 and 18, stayed at Maksoud Plaza, a luxury hotel in the region of the Paulista Avenue, where Luis killed Kaena with a bullet in the head and then committed suicide. Authorities linked this crime with Blue Whale.[61][62][63] A 17-year-old boy from Bauru, a town from São Paulo, wrote on Facebook "A culpa é da baleia" ("Blame it on the whale") minutes before attempting to jump an overpass,[61] where he was saved by firefighters.[64][65][66][67]

In the Federal District, on 5 May 2017, four hearing impaired adolescents playing Blue Whale were prevented by the Military Police from committing suicide.[68][69] In Estrela (Rio Grande do Sul) a mother prevented the suicide of her daughter, who played Blue Whale.[70][71]

In Teófilo Otoni, in the region of Vale do Mucuri, Minas Gerais, a 17-year-old female participant of Blue Whale jumped from the six-meter wall of the property where she lives with her family.[72][73] The young woman survived and was hospitalized.[74] The teenager told the police that she had already cut her arms because of the game and that she had been given the challenge of taking her own life.[75][76][77]

In Paraíba, police identified 20 young people involved with the game.[18] In Pernambuco, seven were identified.[78][79][80][81] Altogether, seven Brazilian states had cases of suicide and mutilation thought to be connected with the game.[82][83][84][85]

Bulgaria

The first news about Blue Whale appeared in mid-February 2017. The emergency was faced by the Safer Internet Centre, established under the Safer Internet plus Programme of the European Commission when "this sensationalistic story was inflated by a number of our clickbait websites creating a wave of panic among parents", as the Centre Coordinator Georgi Apostolov reported. "We decided not to initiate contact directly with the media since this would attract additional interest and could mislead the public into believing the story to be somehow true. As the hype was magnified by thousands sharing the story on the social networks, we just published a warning on our website and spread the link in comments under all shared in Facebook articles and posts. Then the mainstream media themselves started asking us for interviews and quoting our conclusions that it evidently was a hoax."[86] Two discussion groups about suicides were opened on Facebook, but quickly reported and deleted. The diffusion of the viral news was stopped within two weeks. Later, when a sensationalist piece in the Romanian newspaper Gandul caused five more articles in Bulgaria reporting the challenge as real, media again circulated SIC's positions and the hoax was stopped immediately.

Chile

In the Chilean city of Antofagasta, a mother reported to the police that her 12-year-old daughter had 15 cuts on her arm that formed the design of a whale.[87][88][89] After being interviewed by police officers, she confessed that she followed game administrator's instructions while playing this game.[90][91][92][93]

A 13-year-old girl in Padre Las Casas played the game along with three other friends. The girl reached the tenth stage, making cuts in her arms.[94]

An 11-year-old boy in Temuco accepted an invitation to join the game on Facebook from an unidentified woman, but declined to participate after being contacted by a profile named "Ballena Azul".[95]

China

In Ningbo City, Zhejiang, a suicide group was founded by a 10-year-old girl who posted several photos of her self-mutilation related to the Blue Whale.[96][97][98] Since then authorities began to monitor mentions of the game on forums and live broadcasts.[99][100][101]

During the Summer of 2017, Chinese authorities became increasingly concerned with the link between the destructive Blue Whale "game" and the budding self-harm trend of "human embroidery"—a form of self-harm popular among teenagers and linked with depressive social media posts.[14]

Colombia

The Criminal Investigation Directorate (Dijin) of the National Police of Colombia began an investigation into three adolescent deaths that could be related to the game.[102]

Georgia

On 27 May 2017, Rustavi 2 TV reported that a 12-year-old girl tried to commit suicide, allegedly as part of the game. The girl jumped from the fifth floor but survived and is undergoing medical treatment at hospital with multiple injuries and traumas. Police have launched an investigation into the case, but no official statements have been made.[103]

India

A 16-year-old boy from Kerala in Southern India was reported to have committed suicide on 26 July 2017, after playing the online Blue Whale game. Hailing from the city of Thiruvananthapuram, it was said he ended his life after allegedly completing the tasks of this deadly game. Recalling the ordeal, the mother of the deceased told the media, boy had committed suicide after deleting all the games from his mobile phone. Acknowledging that her son had informed her about playing the fatal game, she said she had persuaded him to refrain from playing it, but to no avail. She also said he had downloaded the game nine months ago and that he told her not to worry if he dies soon. His mother also revealed that he used to visit cemeteries during the night and go to the beach alone. One of the tasks assigned to the players involved watching the horror videos sent to them by promoters of the game, it is believed. The boy had also drawn on his wrist with a compass, his mother said, adding that he had offered to donate his organs after his death.[104]

On 30 July 2017, a 14-year-old boy committed suicide by jumping from the seventh floor of an Andheri (East) building in the city of Mumbai.[105] Maharashtra state Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis blamed the suicide on the Blue Whale game, though the Mumbai Police said they had not found evidence that the teenager had played the game.[106]

On 10 August 2017, a Class VII student in the city of Indore, State of Madhya Pradesh, was pulled away by a group of students, before he could take the final suicide leap, off the third floor of the Chamali Devi Public School. The boy apparently recorded the whole 50 stages of the game, in his school diary.[107]

On 10 August 2017, a 14-year-old boy on the way to finish the Blue Whale challenge was rescued by the Maharashtra Police, who intercepted the bus in which he was traveling to Pune, from his home town of Solapur. After the boy went missing, his parents started enquiring with his friends when they came to know that he was playing the Blue Whale Challenge. [108]

On 12 August 2017, a tenth grade student from Anandpur, West Midnapore district of West Bengal allegedly committed suicide as a result of playing the game. His body was discovered in the bathroom, with his face covered with a plastic bag tied around his neck by a cotton cord.[109]

On 16 August 2017, the family of a 22 year-old man in Kerala blamed the Blue Whale game for his suicide by hanging . [110]

Italy

In Italy, press coverage of Blue Whale first appeared on 3 June 2016, in the newspaper La stampa, which described the challenge as "a bad joke".[111] The challenge was mentioned again on 3 March 2017, in the national newspapers Il Giornale[112] and Il Messaggero. This time the challenge was described as a real Russian "game", with 50 strict rules and powerful tutors. A few days later, the suicide of a teenager in Leghorn was linked to the challenge by some newspapers, but an official declaration from the Leghorn police denies that: "It is a private tragedy, totally due to familiar reasons".[113]

The debunking site BUTAC reported the total lack of evidence supporting the existence of the game. On 14 May 2017, a TV report by Le Iene about the Blue Whale on the national channel Italia 1[114] again linked the challenge to the suicide in Leghorn. The report showed several suicide scenes, mostly from videos on LiveLeak depicting adults unrelated to the challenge, describing the footage as evidence of teenagers playing the game. The report interviewed a schoolmate of the Leghorn teenager, two mothers of Russian girls who supposedly took part in the game, and the founder of the Russian Center for the safety of children from internet crimes. Following the report, coverage of the challenge in the Italian media increased, with many outlets describing it as real. Some published the full list of 50 rules. There was a sharp rise in Google searches for the challenge, and some panic.

On 15 and 16 May, newspapers announced the arrest of Budeikin, without saying that it happened months before. His unconfirmed statements about his supposed victims being "genetical rubbish" were reported as real. Paolo Attivissimo, a journalist and debunker of hoaxes, described the game as "a death myth dangerously exaggerated by sensationalist journalism". Police received calls from terrified parents and teachers, and there were reports of teenagers taking part in the challenge. These included several cases of self-mutilation and attempted suicide. Most reports were considered to be false or exaggerated. Alleged participants came from all over Italy: Ravenna,[115] Brescia[116] and Siracusa.[117] On the 22nd the Polizia Postale declared that they had received 40 alarms. On the 24th this number was increased to 70. On its website the Polizia Postale defines Blue Whale as "a practice that seems to possibly come from Russia" and offers advice to parents and teenagers.[118] Several alleged cases have since been described by newspapers.[119]

Kenya

In Nairobi County, Jamie Njenga, a Form Two student at J. G. Kiereini Secondary School in Kiambu County, had played the Blue Whale challenge. He committed suicide on 3 May.[120][121] He hanged himself on the balcony of a hotel owned by his grandfather in the city centre.[122][123][124][125]

Paraguay

Federico Pedro Aguilera, a 22-year-old computer scientist, was found with a sprat, a type of sword, that pierced his chest in Coronel Bogado after playing Blue Whale.[126][127][128][129]

Portugal

Irina Kornutyi, an 18-year-old girl, was admitted to hospital with mutilations on her body in Albufeira after she threw herself from an overpass to the railway line.[130][131] Police, parents and friends said that the girl had been motivated to do so by a person on the Internet named as "Blue Whale".[130][132] In an interview with RTP, she said that she felt alone, and lacking affection.[133][134][135][136]

A 15-year-old boy from Sines was admitted to the Setúbal Hospital after having "drawn" a whale on his arm with a sharp object.[137][138][139] There are already at least ninety victims of the Blue Whale challenge identified in Portugal.[140]

Russia

In March 2017, authorities in Russia were investigating approximately 130 separate cases of suicide related to the phenomenon.[141] In February, 15-year-old Yulia Konstantinova and 16-year-old Veronika Volkova threw themselves off the top of a 14-story building in Irkutsk, Siberia after completing 50 tasks sent to them.[142][143] Before they killed themselves together, Yulia and Veronika left messages on their pages on social networks.[143] Yulia published the photo of a large blue whale and then wrote "End".[144] Veronika had previously posted things like "Do you feel that you become useless?" and "I am just a ghost". On the day of her death she wrote "Sense is lost... End".[145] Also in February, a girl known as Ekaterina, 15, was in critical condition after throwing herself out of an apartment and falling on snow-covered ground in the town of Krasnoyarsk, also in Siberia.[146]

On 11 May 2017, Russian media reported that Philipp Budeikin "plead guilty to inciting teenagers to suicide," having described his victims as "biological waste" and claiming he was "cleansing society."[11][12] He was held at Kresty Prison in St Petersburg with charges of "inciting at least 16 teenage girls to kill themselves."[11]

On 26 May 2017, Russian Duma (parliament) passed a bill introducing criminal responsibility for creating pro-suicide groups on social media, in the wake of 130 teen deaths linked to the Blue Whale suicide challenge.[147] On 7 June 2017, President Putin signed a law imposing criminal penalties for inducing minors to suicide.[148] The law imposes a maximum punishment of six years in prison.

On 8 June 2017, Ilya Sidorov, 26, one of the game's administrators, was arrested in Moscow.[149][150][151]

Saudi Arabia

On 5 June 2017, a 13-year-old boy 'Metlaq Affas Albugami' committed suicide in his room, where his body was discovered by his mother. The boy used his PlayStation wires to commit suicide. His death has been linked to Blue Whale. He is the first known victim in the country.[152]

Serbia

A 13-year-old boy in Velika Plana injured his hand, telling his parents that he had done so because of Blue Whale. The parents reported the case to the police.[153]

Spain

In Spain, a teenager was admitted to a psychiatric unit of a Barcelona hospital after her family said she started playing Blue Whale.[154][155][156][157][158]

United States

In the city of San Antonio, Texas, the body of a 15-year-old was found on 8 July 2017. A cellphone had broadcast the teen's suicide, which is believed to be related to the game.[159]

It is also alleged that the game was tied to a teen's death in Atlanta, Georgia.[160]

Uruguay

In the city of Rivera, 450 kilometers from Montevideo, a 13-year-old girl was hospitalized at a local hospital after employees of the school she attended reported injuries to her left arm.[161][162][163] Adolescents victimized by the Blue Whale game are being investigated in six departments: Montevideo, Canelones, Colonia, Río Negro, Salto and Rivera.[164][165]

Venezuela

A 15-year-old student from Nazareth College in the city of Puerto Ordaz committed suicide after taking part in Blue Whale on the night of 27 April 2017.[166]

Reactions

In March 2017, Romanian Minister of Internal Affairs Carmen Dan expressed her deep concerns about the phenomenon.[167] Mayor of Bucharest Gabriela Firea described the game as "extremely dangerous".[168]

The game has caused significant concern in Western Europe, including France[169] and the United Kingdom.[170]

In Brazil, in response to the game, a designer and a publicity agent from São Paulo created a movement called Baleia Rosa (Pink Whale),[171][172] which became viral and relied on the collaboration of hundreds of volunteers.[173][174][175] The movement is based on positive tasks that value life and combat depression.[176] Also in Brazil, Sandro Sanfelice created the movement Capivara Amarela (Yellow Capybara),[177] which proposes to "combat the Blue Whale game" and guide people seeking some kind of help.[178] Participants are separated between challengers, who are the people who seek help, and the healers, who are kind of godfathers of these people.[179] An Adventist school in southern Paraná, in partnership with other education networks, also sought to reverse the situation by proposing another charity game, the "Jonas Challenge" (referring to the biblical character Jonah, who was vomited up by a large fish three days after being swallowed by it).[180][181] Other games created in Brazil in response to the Blue Whale were the Baleia Verde (Green Whale) and the Preguiça Azul (Blue Sloth). In the United States, one site, also called the "Blue Whale Challenge" does not immediately identify itself as an effort to combat the game, but offers fifty days of challenges that promote mental health and well-being. [182] [183][184][185][186]

Author Glória Perez stated on 21 April that she plans to include the Blue Whale game in her new telenovela, A Força do Querer.[187][188][189][190][191] The media also stressed that the phenomenon coincided with the controversy surrounding the web television series 13 Reasons Why, which addresses the issue of teen suicide.[192][193]

In Belo Horizonte and Recife metropolitan area in Brazil, many schools promoted lectures to talk about the Blue Whale game.[194][195] The Police Specialized in High Technology Crime Repression (Dercat) in Piauí is preparing a digital primer to warn young people about the dangers of the game.[196][197][198]

In May 2017, authorities of the Mexican state of Michoacán issued an alert warning about the possibility of the Blue Whale challenge to invade the country.[199][200]

In May 2017, Tencent, China's largest Internet service portal, closed 12 suspicious Blue Whale-related network groups on its social networking platform QQ, as the number of this kind of groups is on the rise.[201] The search results of related keywords was also blocked in QQ.[202][203]

In August 2017, the Government of India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology directed several internet companies (including Google, Facebook, and Yahoo) to remove all links which direct users to the game.[204]

See also

References

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External links

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