16 May 2017

Social Media Update: #Bluewhale

by Verlie Oosthuizen, Partner, Durban,
Practice Area(s): Social Media / Cyber Crimes |

Last week there was a flurry of activity and panic about a game called Blue Whale which was allegedly doing the rounds in Europe and had purportedly caused the suicides or deaths of teenagers.   The story went that a Russian game called Blue Whale, which encouraged players to do certain tasks - there are 50 daily tasks which eventually end in the ultimate one of committing suicide – had caused the death of hundreds of teenagers and was set to hit our shores.  Some reports had the number of teen deaths at around 14 as a result of this game whilst others were claiming that there had been hundreds.

Unfortunately these types of situations are nothing new and social media is the perfect place to spread the panic.  Research into the Blue Whale claims show that this story initially surfaced last year on Russian websites but were debunked.  Then there was a single report about the supposed creator of the “game” in November 2016 which was eventually picked up by the international tabloids in May this year.  Therefore the “panic” is about something that may or may not have happened last year in Russia with no definitive proof either way.

There are certainly many dangers on social media which can undoubtedly cause harm to young teens which deserve the focus and attention of the public such as cyber bullying or sexting or other unlawful activity.  Before we waste energy and outrage on “threats” such as Blue Whale we should do our research very carefully.