Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1389, (12 - 18 April 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1389, (12 - 18 April 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Deadly games

MPs call for the banning of an app that has been linked to the suicide of teenagers in several countries, reports Reem Leila


Deadly games
Deadly games

On 9 April a 15-year-old student in Alexandria was taken to hospital after a suicide attempt. When asked by doctors about unusual marks on her left leg the girl said that they were a self-administered tattoo. The girl also said she had consumed insecticide, admitting that both the tattoo and poison were challenges set in the by now notorious Blue Whale game.

The Blue Whale challenge can be uploaded onto smart phones, desk tops and laptops. It consists of 50 challenges, to be completed in the same number of days. The various levels involve self-harm including cutting, the watching of horror movies, with both the films and viewing times set by a game administrator, the drinking of the player’s own blood and culminate, on the 50th day, in suicide, either by hanging or jumping off a building.

The sinister app, which appears to target vulnerable teenagers, was developed in 2018 by Philip Budeikin, a 21-year-old Russian who had studied psychology before being expelled from his university.

Following the girl’s admission the Department of Criminal Investigation was called in to investigate the incident.

On 2 April, a week before the Alexandrian schoolgirl was admitted to hospital, the 18-year-old son of former MP Hamdi Al-Fakharani, was found hanging in his bedroom. The boy’s suicide has also been linked to the Blue Whale challenge. According to the victim’s sister, Yasmine, “the Blue Whale game is the main reason for my brother’s death.”

“Among his belongings we found a blue whale sign, instructions to watch horror movies at midnight and to listen to particular songs the lyrics of which we discovered, written down, in the waste paper basket in his room.”

“In the beginning,” Yasmine wrote on her Facbook page, “I did not believe it could be true, especially given my brother was a religious person who prayed, fasted and read the Quran. He joined the game as a challenge and wanted to prove he could defeat it. Sadly it defeated him.”

To join the game players are instructed to cut an image of a blue whale or the sign F57 on their arm which they must then show onscreen to a game administrator before being allowed to continue. Players are asked to isolate themselves from family and friends and not inform anyone about the game.

Dar Al-Iftaa, the arm of Al-Azhar which issues fatwas, has posted a video on its YouTube official page warning against the game and denouncing it as prohibited by Islam.

In May 2016 Budeikin was found guilty of encouraging 16 female teenagers to kill themselves. Budeikin did not deny the charges, instead saying he considered the victims “biological waste” who were “happy to die” and claimed he was “cleansing society”.

Until now, 130 suicide cases across the world have been linked to the Blue Whale challenge.

Following the case of the Alexandrian student MP Sherif Al-Wardani submitted an urgent request calling on the Minister of Communications and Information Technology to take action by halting the spread of “dangerous electronic games”.

He was joined by MP Mohamed Hani who asked Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal to demand Prime Minister Sherif Ismail “take swift measures to ban such dangerous games from the Internet and from being uploaded onto smart phones”.

In Brazil a designer and a publicity agent from São Paulo launched Baleia Rosa (Pink Whale) in an attempt to counter the insidious influence of its near namesake. Pink Whale consists of a series of life affirming tasks. In China Tencent, the country’s largest Internet service portal, has closed 12 Blue Whale-related network groups on its social networking platform QQ.

Amany Toulan, a sociologist at Ain Shams University, recommends awareness raising campaigns in schools and universities to counter the spread of Blue Whale. Toulan also advises parents to closely monitor and if necessary limit the use of smart phones by children.

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