Much has been spoken about the Blue Whale Challenge, a supposed online game that leads youngsters to suicide but does the game even exist? As governments mull a ban on online suicide game Blue Whale Challenge, cyber experts tell OneIndia why the online game could just be a hoax.
Deadly online game or Chinese Whisper?
For a game that is infamous for killing vulnerable teenagers, there is no confirmation whatsoever that the Blue Whale Challenge exists. While individual cases, especially in Brazil, have been attributed to an online game, no mention of specific names and details have been reported.
"We live in the digital age. Had there been even half a dozen suicide with similar characteristics like chatroom interactions, specific tasks, 50 days challenge etc people would be all over it. Contacts, IP addresses, sources of those involved would be traced. Even if you don't manage to make arrests you would know what you are looking for," said Vidyut Gore, Tech writer and blogger.
Snopes, a popular fact check website that has bust many a rumours and myths, has done extensive research on the Blue Whale Challenge but has found no substantial proof of its existence. Law enforcement and investigative authorities across the globe including the United States have not confirmed the existence of any such game. In India though, the issue is being raised in Parliament and state assemblies with the government wanting to impose a ban.
Banning something that doesn't exist?
The Mumbai police probing the death of a teenager in Andheri has not confirmed any links between the suicide and the Blue Whale Challenge. Politicians from Maharashtra including Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis have spoken about the game at length albeit with no proof, just claims.
"This is completely bizarre. How do you ban something like that? Even if one were to go by the rumours, the game is not a website or an app but an interactive virtual chatroom. How do you ban people from talking with each other? Even if the game were true, move to ban it is absurd," said Vidyut Gore
Why the Blue Whale Challenge may really not exist
The more people talk about the online game, the more it is gaining a life of its own. Every claim about the Blue Whale Challenge is unsubstantiated including the number of suicides it supposedly incited. There is no source, no quote and most importantly no arrests. The only arrest was that of Philipp Budeikin, the founder of F57, a group that was banned in 2014. After that, there have been multiple 'death groups' or 'suicide groups' in Russia but none of the deaths has been directly linked to such groups.
"If someone goes and stands at a bridge for a half hour or stands at the edge of a building, everybody is going to take notice. Self-harm will be noticed. According to the rumours about the game, there are 50 challenges basically meaning, the game has to go on for almost two months. It is impossible that nobody notices these things," said Vidyut Gore
"Going by the claims there are some 200 cases of Blue Whale suicides but these are just reported numbers. There could be a 1,000 more unreported if the game were true. If I am maintaining contact with you on a daily basis and taking you through tasks, how many people can I engage with? 10-20 on an average? So how many handlers would you need with that kind of skill to talk someone through this process? Imagine the level of conspiracy and the level of confidence that it would take. This size of a conspiracy is impossible to go unnoticed," she added.
Experts also believe that if the government intended to ban a game whose existence is in question, they would not know where to begin. Instead of panicking about the threat that a supposed game poses, it may be time to stop and think about whether the threat really exists or is the result of an urban legend.