12

According to the Daily Mail:

Police in Russia are investigating a rush of teenage suicide attempts amid fears that they may have been manipulated by sinister social media groups.

Two schoolgirls fell to their deaths from a building on the weekend prompting fears they were influenced into doing it by games masters behind a craze called Blue Whale.

Teenagers complete tasks like cutting themselves in the build-up to them being told to kill themselves on day 50 of being involved in the game.

Is it true?

  • @DevSolar: Please avoid using comments for "pseudo-answers". The contents of the Snopes link should be plenty to give a proper answer that can be voted upon, accepted, flagged, etc. – Oddthinking Feb 28 '17 at 14:17
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    @Oddthinking: I'm a bit miffed by that. I find a relevant link, but am not interested enough to actually work through its contents and write up an elaborate answer. So I drop it as a comment. You're telling me a question without anything resembling an answer is better than a question with somewhat of an answer in the comments? – DevSolar Feb 28 '17 at 14:20
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    @DevSolar The problem with answers in comments is that it discourages actual answers, thus increasing the amount of unanswered questions (I think it's less of a problem at skeptics than at other sites, but it's still a problem). – tim Feb 28 '17 at 17:48
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    @tim: Hm. I feel it's the other way around, giving people some pointers so they can harvest some easy rep.... but I concur, and will try to behave. – DevSolar Feb 28 '17 at 17:55
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    French media talked about it, and say they tried to infiltrate as a player, but didn't coplete the inscription because they were supposed to send picture of "themselves" as 17yo – DrakaSAN Mar 31 '17 at 12:07
11

I found a more in-depth article on theglobeandmail.com.

It takes a critical and researched approach over the issue, which is consistent to the type of answers needed in such cases.

Some highlights from the article (in case the link breaks after a while):

A new moral panic is working its way across Europe and will no doubt be seized on by North American media. It is an account of a shadowy online Russian suicide cult, apparently entrapping teenagers, called the Blue Whale game. There is little evidence that the game has actually caused suicides, or that it even exists. [...]

What the Blue Whale myth reflects, really, is not a suicide trend among teenagers, but a creeping fear that the Internet itself can spy on us and control us, the way a cult or an authoritarian state can.

A bit of history about it:

In May, 2016, the state-funded television network Russia Today (RT) aired a news piece about pro-suicide groups on the social network VKontakte (VK). A teenage girl had killed herself apparently after joining one of these groups. The groups seduced teenagers with cryptic videos filled with ciphers and codes. RT claimed there were dozens of these groups and that many suicides were traceable to their influence. It called the trend a "cyber suicide industrial complex."

Reason why people accept those "challenges":

Many of the reports on this phenomenon claim that if you don’t complete the tasks, you are threatened with some kind of awful retaliation, usually a threat to reveal some kind of secret (which of course the moderator knows about, from having monitored your computer use). You are told that the moderator knows exactly where your live, because of your computer's IP address.

More recent events about it:

The story of the Blue Whale deaths was picked up in late February and early March by British tabloids. The Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Sun ran stories about this potential new threat – by repeating the claims made by the first Russian reports, and including the "130 Russian deaths" statistic.

However, when fact checking was attempted (emphasis mine):

Radio Free Europe has investigated the phenomenon and tried to participate under aliases, but got nowhere. They point out that neither the suicides nor the arrest have been definitively linked to this game. Snopes, the respected hoax-monitoring website, has deemed the story "unproven."

The whole reason why this urban myth appeared and is occassionally getting traction seems to be purely social-psychological in nature, with some artistic origins:

The fear of a widespread teenage suicide cult is not new. The victims in reported or fictitious suicide clubs are usually teenage girls, not boys, which reflects a larger societal obsession with teenage girls and sexual violence. The notoriously gory 2001 Japanese horror film Suicide Club exploited this fear: it depicts a spate of mysterious deaths. It begins with 54 schoolgirls throwing themselves under a train. As police investigate, they find a website that seems to be predicting the deaths.

[...]

George Orwell predicted this in 1984. And Trump’s spokesperson, Kellyanne Conway, is working this literary trope when she speaks of "microwaves that turn into cameras."

[...]

The worst possible outcome of some Internet vigilante looking to punish everyone for their secret crimes was imagined last year by a particularly gruesome episode of Black Mirror called "Shut Up And Dance." In it, various characters inadvertently download malware that spies on them and finds a dark secret, such as the viewing of child pornography. An anonymous hacker then blackmails the characters, forcing them to commit increasingly violent and grave crimes to avoid exposure.

The conclusion of the article sums it up pretty nicely (emphasis mine):

The Blue Whale story is more contemporary in that it involves computers as instruments of punishment for those who use them. It is about control through surveillance. We commit our secrets to our computers, in our private communications and our Internet searches and our hidden photo files. We have discovered hackers can find any of our secrets and that we may ourselves be inviting these malicious forces into our lives by frequenting unwholesome sites. It is punishment for our own immorality.

[...]

(....) one wonders if the news is simply science fiction (...). Here is not a question of life imitating art, but of news drawing from art. What the urban legend evinces is a real moral panic going on in the world right now – a fear of surveillance, control and punishment by the very systems of communication we depend on.


In conclusion, if the article is right, the whole story about the Blue-Whale looks like nothing more than urban legend. Personally, from my experience with humanity, this usually tends to be the case.

6

From what I could find it appears to be part urban legend, part social media game, part a teen fad that probably got blown out of proportion by more traditional media.

It appears that the game involves filming dangerous stunts that get progressively more dangerous and supposingly end with suicide.

The reporting I found however cast a doubt on how many people have actually committed suicide as a result. It appears most teens join out of curiosity and do not follow through.

Here is some reporting on the topic: https://meduza.io/feature/2017/02/17/gorodskaya-legenda-chto-stoit-za-igroy-siniy-kit-i-vspleskom-interesa-k-suitsidalnym-pablikam

The expert interviewed seem to think this is more of myth, a horror story, than something real.

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    "more of myth, a horror story, than something real." as expected from DM. – Mohammad Sakib Arifin Mar 1 '17 at 0:30
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    "It appears that the game involves filming dangerous stunts that get progressively more dangerous and supposingly end with suicide." - so, it's a "yes" then. Everything else is quite irrelevant. The group does exist, and there are at least some people who do take it seriously. – sashkello Mar 1 '17 at 3:57
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    There is some truth to in certainly, but a "rush of teenage suicide attempts"... Probably not. But there seems to be some histeria around this, so the DM article is not totally baseless. – ventsyv Mar 1 '17 at 4:05
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    Please cite and translate the relevant part from the source. Also, the DM claims that the police are investigating the "Blue Whale" game as a possible reason for the suicides, is this the case, did the Russian Police say that they are looking into the game? – SIMEL Mar 1 '17 at 7:35
  • Is this an answer? – Elberich Schneider Mar 10 '17 at 20:00

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