Chinese Internet police have called for a boycott of a sick suicide challenge similar to "Blue Whale," which originated in Russia and reportedly incited at least 16 schoolgirls to kill themselves.
"Blue Whale" is believed to be an online social media group which, according to sensational tabloid reports, encouraged players to take part in a series of tasks such as "getting up at 4:20 a.m.," and inciting acts of self-harm for 50 consecutive days. They were then instructed to commit suicide on the final day.
The 21-year-old game inventor Philipp Budeikin, from Russia, has been arrested, the Daily Mail reported in May. However, other media reports claim that there has never been any definitive proof to connect the game with incidents of teen suicide in Russia or other countries.
Nevertheless, Chinese cyber police found online evidence that the challenge has entered Chinese cyberspace, with QQ chat groups using keywords such as "4:20"and "blue whale" active online. These groups have been blocked for fear that vulnerable young players would be goaded into killing themselves.
Chongqing cyber police posted on Sina Weibo on Thursday that some teenagers had joined in the game and began to self-harm, warning parents to "stay alert" to children's online activities.
Jiangsu cyber police announced Friday that three QQ groups relating to Blue Whale were taken down due to their potential danger. But the three founders said they had no intention of manipulating people to commit suicide but merely did it "for fun."
QQ security said that they had been investigating similar groups since May 6, and had banned 12 groups, The Beijing News reported. But QQ also said that groups using the key words "blue whale" were still on the rise. QQ said they have blocked certain keywords and would step up efforts to crack down on similar group chats.
An official WeChat account named Dada under news site 163.com claimed that one of its editors had joined a QQ group, and was told that players should provide an ID, home address and even a naked selfie to join the game.
By press time, related key words could not be searched on QQ anymore. No suicides have been reported in China.