Social media trends among teenagers are nothing new. But a new “game” called “Blue Whale” encourages youths to “win” by doing the unthinkable: committing suicide.
The sinister challenge started to spread in Russia and multiple Central Asian countries including Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and is believed to have led to the suicides of over 130 teens.
Although the origins of the game are difficult to trace, authorities from Russia’s Investigative Committee say that one of the sources is an online social networking website called Vkontakte.
Teenagers “sign up” for the game by making a profile on the Vkontakte site, at which point a “curator” is assigned to them.
Investigators decided to create their own fake profile, impersonating a 15-year-old girl, to see what would happen if they played the game.
The following is a transcript of conversations between the “15-year-old girl” and a “curator”:
GIRL: “I want to play the game.”
CURATOR: “Are you sure? There is no way back,” responded a so-called curator of the Blue Whale game.
GIRL: “Yes. What does that mean — no way back?”
CURATOR: “You can’t leave the game once you begin.”
GIRL: “I’m ready.” Then the curator explained the rules.
CURATOR: “You carry out each task diligently, and no one must know about it. When you finish a task, you send me a photo. And at the end of the game, you die. Are you ready?”
GIRL: “And if I want to get out?”
CURATOR: “I have all your information. They will come after you.”
According to investigators, the first task assigned by the curator was to carve “F58” into her arm.
By using photoshop, investigators created a fake picture of an arm with the letters/numbers scratch in. Once the photo was sent, however, the curator ceased to respond.
Numerous other curators were contacted by investigators, including one curator who wrote:
I am your personal whale. I will help you take the game all the way to the end. The last day is the end of the game. If you die, you win. If you don’t, we will help you. Are you ready?
Russian authorities eventually managed to make an arrest: Filip Budeikin, the man they believe to be primarily behind the trend.
Despite being charged with coaxing at least 15 teenagers to kill themselves, Filip admitted during an interview that the actual number was 17.
Justifying his actions, Filip said that the teens “died happy. I gave them that which they did not have in their real life: warmth, understanding, connection.”
According to one report:
Currently, authorities in Kazakhstan have blocked access to the “death groups” on social media, and in Central Asia, Kazakh Interior Minister Kalmukhanbet Kasymov has called for creating a national database of social-media users.
In the capital of Kyrgyzstan, police have begun searching through schools to check children for signs of cutting or for suspicious messages on their phones.