You might have been hearing about teenagers killing themselves because of an "online game" called the Blue Whale challenge, and the issue is being taken seriously by the government. On Wednesday, the official account of the Ministry of Women and Child Development tweeted that "it's unfortunate that the self-destructive Blue Whale Challenge has claimed over 100 lives," and the account added that the Minister, Maneka Gandhi, had taken up the matter with the Minister of Home Affairs, Rajnath Singh, as well as the Information Technology Minister, RS Prasad, to remove the Blue Whale challenge from social media.
However, actually banning the Blue Whale challenge would not be possible - because, as we explained earlier, the challenge is not a game - it's a set of instructions shared online.
In the Blue Whale challenge, people called "curators" chat online with vulnerable teenagers, and lead them down a path of self harm. The tasks are shared online, and the kids are pressured into carrying out these harmful actions, until they're driven to kill themselves. Here's what you need to know about the Blue Whale challenge, and why it can't be banned.
- The Blue Whale challenge has been in existence for some years. There are - for now - relatively few suicide cases from India.
- It is a set of instructions, usually shared via social media.
- There is no single hashtag, site, or app being used to find and communicate with vulnerable kids.
- For this reason, blocking/ banning the challenge is also not feasible. You'd effectively have to block the whole Internet.
- You'd need to shut down most popular social networks and chat platforms for this to work.
- Not all the cases followed the same pattern either, making it harder to identify the warning signs.
- Actually finding the challenge is not easy either - social networks are trying to block the hashtags as well.
- The challenge was created by Philipp Budeikin, a 22-year-old Russian, who directly handed out instructions to some children.