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Blue Whale game is a virtual threat

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12th-Oct-2017       
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A NEW IT virtual threat known as 'Blue Whale' game is looming. This much-talked digital game already has triggered panic among the guardians. The entire nation got confused as to how a youth can commit suicide being motivated by a game. But they bound to believe after getting experience of such game-related death of a 13-year old boy Apurba Bardhan Shorna -- in the city on October 5. A similar death occurred in Tamil Nadu, India recently.

"Blue Whale" came to prominence in May 2016 through an article in Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, which linked many unrelated child suicides to membership of group "F57" on the VKontakte social network. The Blue Whale Game also known as "Blue Whale Challenge", is a 21 century social network phenomenon that is claimed to exist in several countries, beginning in 2016. The game reportedly consists of a series of tasks assigned to players by administrators over a 50-day period, with the final challenge requiring the player to commit suicide. A wave of moral panic swept Russia. However, the piece was later criticised for attempting to make a causal link where none existed and none of the suicides was found to be as a result of the group activities.

In 2016, Philipp Budeikin, a 21-year-old former psychology student who was expelled from his university, claimed that he invented the game in 2013. He said his intention was to cleanse society by pushing persons to suicide that he deemed as having no value. Although originally claiming innocence and stating he was "just having fun", Budeikin was arrested and held in Kresty Prison, St Petersburg and in May 2016 pled guilty to "inciting at least 16 teenage girls to commit suicide." He was later convicted on two counts of inciting suicide of a minor. In June 2017, postman Ilya Sidorov was arrested in Moscow, also accused of setting up a "Blue Whale" group to encourage children to self-harm and ultimately commit suicide. He claimed to have persuaded 32 children to join his group and follow commands.

While many experts suggest "Blue Whale" was originally a sensationalised hoax, they believe that it is likely that the phenomenon has led to instances of imitative self-harming and copycat groups, leaving vulnerable children at risk of cyberbullying and online shaming. Blue Whale is described as being based on the relationship between participants (or challengers) and administrators. The administrators prescribe a series of duties that players must complete, usually one per day, some of which involve self-mutilation. As of late 2017, participation in Blue Whale seems to be receding; however, internet safety organisations across the world have reacted by giving general advice to parents and educators on suicide prevention, mental health awareness, and online safety in advance of the next incarnation of cyberbullying meme.

The Home Ministry, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) and Police are still in dark about the online suicidal game. However, the Home Ministry has issued separate instructions to take necessary steps to check the deadly 'Blue Whale' game. We condemn the creation of such games. The government agencies, the police in particular, should go all out to combat this offensive digital device to save lives of our tender aged youths, mostly in their teens.

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