A social media challenge called "Blue Whale", goading young people to kill themselves, has spread to China, reports China News. Amid fears the sinister suicide game could quickly proliferate on its platforms, Chinese social media giant Tencent has leaped into action by taking down chat groups it deems suspicious and blocking the search of related key words.
On its major social networking platform QQ, 12 chat groups have been shut down for suspicious chat topics and content since May 6, when Tencent launched a thorough investigation into the matter. Currently, key words related to the suicide challenge can no longer be searched for on QQ.
However, QQ's security team says the topic "Blue Whale" is gaining heat across the platform, with the number of suspicious social media groups on the rise. An ongoing investigation is underway.
What is the "Blue Whale" challenge?
The "Blue Whale" suicide game refers to online social media groups which encourage participants to kill themselves.
It's said that a group administrator assigns daily tasks to members, which they have to complete over 50 days.
Tasks include self-harm, watching horror movies and waking up at unusual hours, but these gradually get more extreme. On the 50th day, the administrators reportedly issue an instruction to commit suicide.
How many people have died?
The game is believed to have originated from Russia, where 130 suicides of youngsters between November 2015 and April 2016 have been linked to "Blue Whale". Almost all of the fatalities were found to be members of the same Internet group.
Yet Russian police have not officially confirmed the deaths were due to "Blue Whale" groups.
Besides Russia, there have been reports of "Blue Whale" suicide cases in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Many of the deaths have been linked to Internet groups.
What to do if come across a suspected group?
Suicide challenges like "Blue Whale" organize and instigate others to commit suicide, which is a criminal offense.
Tencent says, netizens who come across suspected groups online should play an active part in reporting the matter to police and the respective platform.