Origin of the claim
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5th October 2017, the body of a 13-year-old girl named Apurba Barman Sorna was found hanging from the ceiling fan of her residence in Dhaka Central Road by the police. Two days after the incident on 7th October the father of the girl, Advocate Subrata Barman gave an interview on TV where he told of his suspicion that playing the ‘Blue Whale’ game led her daughter to commit suicide. Shortly after the interview aired numerous disreputable news portals including national dailies entirely based on her father’s suspicion and without any verification published news concluding that playing the Blue Whale game was the reason of her suicide. The signs which made Adv. Barman suspicious that her daughter was a victim of Blue Whale are –
1) She used to go the roof alone, 2) He saw her using mobile at 3 in the morning and 3) A suicide note left behind with a smiley emoticon saying “No one is responsible for my death.”
However, none of the symptoms of playing Blue Whale which has been posted in numerous online posts (like, self-mutilation, hurting others) were found in this case. In fact, there was no trace of any such game on her mobile. None of the signs which made Adv. Barman made suspicious is specifically a symptom of Blue Whale.
The Daily Jugantor headlining “Girl Commits Suicide on the command of Blue Whale” published a news concerning this incident which translates to –
“Deadly addiction Blue Whale now strikes Bangladesh. A girl from the capital’s central road commits suicide being trapped by the game.
But the basis of this claim is not based on any police investigation rather on Adv. Barman’s suspicion, who himself learned about this game after his daughter’s death, the day before the interview. His sources of information of this game were also different untrusted posts published online. The report further added –
“The girl got admitted into class six in Farmgate’s Holy Cross School (two years ago). Her behavior started changing after her admission in the school. To aid her studies she started using the internet. She started using smartphone too. She was also using Facebook and other social media platforms. Meanwhile unknowingly to everyone else she entered into a forbidden game on the internet.”
Therefore Sorna’s unusual behavior started before the game Blue Whale became an online hype, and the claim she unknowingly entered this game without the knowledge of anyone is also completely hypothetical, as there was no sign or proof that she played this game. The report also says –
“A note written as per the order of the Blue Whale’s curator was found beside the body which now is in the custody of the police. It clearly states no one is responsible for my death. A smiley emoticon is drawn at the end as per instruction of the game.”
A suicide note stating “no one is responsible for my death” or drawing a smiley emoticon is not specifically a sign of victims of Blue Whale rather a very common act from most people who commit suicide. To present the incident in a gruesome way the words that the suicide was committed on the instruction of Blue Whale’s curator was added. Besides the news published about the game from Adv. Barman’s statement contains numerous wrong information. One of them is “A Russian psychopath software engineer invented and spread this game on the internet.” The man police arrested as the curator of the game, Philipp Budeikin was a student of psychology, who was suspended from the university. He was no way connected to the field of software engineering.
The report on the Jugantor states ways to identify Blue Whale addicts –
Teens who play the game generally keep themselves isolated. Natural tendencies are absent from them. They spent most of the day on social media. Stays quiet. Sometimes they strike conversations with strangers. Many are found roaming about the roof late at night. At a time they start self-harming themselves.
However, these symptoms are common to many teens passing through adolescence due to various reasons. This can’t be solely the Blue Whale’s syndrome.
Blue Whale: Not a mobile game
From various news regarding ‘Blue Whale’ it becomes clear that those reports were made without any proper research and the reporters are unaware of how internet works or terms like the deep web. Most of their sources are rumors spread across the internet. Blue Whale is actually not a type of game that we generally understand as a computer or mobile game.
Blue Whale is mainly a task list based game. The participants of this game are encouraged to complete various tasks. The game first gained prominence on the Russian based social media ‘VK’ through a group named F57. Through group chat, the members of the group were enticed into these tasks. Later on, this group was banned by authorities of VK.
Various media proclaiming that hackers may permanently get access into mobiles through this game or different links is completely baseless. This game doesn’t hypnotize people to commit suicide. Though these groups encourage suicide, police investigation drew no conclusive evidence 130 people were forced to suicide through this game. Most teens passing through adolescence often have suicidal or self-harming tendencies. This game persuades those people who are suicidal into these groups and then portrays suicide as a thrilling adventure.
This game is neither a very high tech game nor a one conducted by any dangerous hacker rather it’s a challenging game like “truth or dare.” That’s why this game doesn’t have any website, secret link or involvement of any dangerous group of hackers. It’s a distorted game which is played for wicked entertainment. Several blogs, tabloids, news portals, Facebook pages with the aim of publishing viral news presents news regarding blue whale sensationally. In fact not only in Bangladesh but also worldwide rumors regarding Blue Whale is same across the media. Similar to the rumor of artificial egg the existence of this game is unverified and groundless.
To counter the suicidal activities like Blue Whale, a Brazilian group started a challenge name Pink Whale which motivates people to participate in activities which are positive and morally encouraging.
UK Safer Internet Center termed Blue Whale as an example of a sensationalized fake news story. Several Bulgaria based organizations warned against believing the ‘Blue Whale’ story.
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