The Blue Whale Challenge has been in news for a while now. The dare-based “game” was created by a 22-year-old Russian named Philipp Budeikin who, in an interview, confessed that he was directly responsible for at least 17 teenagers in Russia committing suicide. Budeikin was arrested in May this year and was sentenced to three years in prison.
Those who take up the Blue Whale Challenge are to complete 50 tasks — ranging from listening to certain kind of music the curator (the one who instructs) sends at 4.20 AM to cutting yourself to watching horror movies all day to isolating yourself to finally taking one’s own life, mostly by jumping off from a high-rise — and sending proof, photographs of videos, of each completed task to get the next one assigned.
The challenge soon became an internet phenomenon and spread to other countries. The suicide of a 14-year-old Mumbai teenager was suspected to the first case of Blue Whale Challenge-related suicide in India. While the police are tight-lipped about any link to the challenge, a family friend denied any connection to the challenge and told that the family got to know about the challenge only after seeing media reports. A few other cases, from different parts of India, were reported — one Dehradun, one from West Bengal and one from Pune — but in these cases too, connection to Blue Whale Challenge could not be verified. However, in all these cases, sources close to teenagers confirmed that they mentioned Blue Whale Challenge and taking it up.
KERALA TEENAGER KILLS HIMSELF TO COMPLETE BLUE WHALE CHALLENGE
Manoj C Manu, a 16-year-old boy from Perumkulam in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram, hanged himself on July 26. Kerala Police had registered a case of unnatural death then. Yesterday, the Class 11 student’s mother informed police that she suspects her son committed suicide to complete the Blue Whale Challenge.
Manoj, his mother Anu said, had spoken to her about the Blue Whale Challenge nine months ago. In an interview, she told that she laughed it off initially asking who would name a game that, but when Manoj told her that to “play” it, the players should complete different tasks and finally kill oneself, kill someone else, or turn into a lunatic, she took a word from him that he won’t attempt it.
On asking how he knew about the game, Manoj told his mother that he chanced upon it and on getting a clue, he explored it and learned how to go about it.
HOW MANOJ’S BEHAVIOUR CHANGED
Manoj never used to travel alone, his mother — Anu — said but in the last nine months, he used to set out to see the beach all by himself, stay awake all night and go to sleep at 5 in the morning, used to frequent cemeteries, plunged into river despite not knowing swimming and even made a friend carve three alphabets on his hand using a compass.
“He started behaving strangely since last November. First he went to a beach all alone. He lied to us that he was going for some programme with his friends but went to the beach alone. In January, I saw three alphabets carved on his hand – A, B and I. His friend was scared to do it, but Manoj forced him to,” Anu told .
WILL YOU BE SAD IF I DIE, ASKED MANOJ
Anu also told the channel that her son hinted about death. “He asked me if I will be if he dies and if I’d recover from the grief. I told him my two children are like me eyes, I will be sad if I lose them,” said Anu. Manoj then said, she told “You will still have my sister even if I am gone. Give her my share of love”. Anu said she cried a lot on hearing that and told him how important he was.
Manoj looked gloomy during those days, remembered Anu. He told Anu that he was just joking and asked her not to be sad.
Manoj’s uncle told India Today that he noticed drastic changes in his behaviour over the last two months. Vilappilshala SI, who is in charge of the case, told India Today that Anu gave the new statement — about the Blue Whale Challenge — yesterday and that the family has handed over Manoj’s phone to them.
HERE’S HOW THE BLUE WHALE CHALLENGE WORKS
A prospective player — could be anyone, teenagers and adults alike — uses certain hashtags on social media platforms to show their interest in taking up the challenge.
Curators — people who give instructions — find these interested people using those hashtags and get in touch with them.
The players and curators converse — on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or even WhatsApp — and the curators assign tasks to the players.
The players are to complete the tasks and provide photographs and videos to the curator to prove they’ve completed the task successfully.
Curators and players eventually converse on Skype, and possibly the curators get personal information from the players including their private mobile numbers.
Chances are that curators even manage to get nude images of the players or make them share their secrets, those secrets with which they could be blackmailed in case they try to leave the challenge.
On the 50th day, the assigned task would be to jump off a high-rise, and many players end up obeying the curator.
CAN THE BLUE WHALE CHALLENGE BE BANNED?
The answer, though scary, is that banning the Blue Whale Challenge could prove a tough task.
Blue Whale Challenge is played using hashtags on social media platforms and later on instant messaging applications. There is no application that you can download from app stores and precisely for that reason, quite obviously, it cannot be banned on app stores either.
The only way to reduce or limit the number of people taking up the Blue Whale Challenge is by pressuring the social media giants to deactivate the hashtags used to play the game. The hashtags, when clicked, should not give any results.