TEHRAN: Iranian authorities have blamed ‘Blue Whale’ for suicide by two teenaged girls.
In the first reported incident of its kind in Iran, police said the two young women jumped from a bridge in the central city of Isfahan, leaving them dead.
Some Iranian politicians have responded to the Blue Whale report with calls to further bolster the authorities’ control over the Internet.
Mehdi Masoom Beigi, the police chief of Isfahan, said the authorities discovered an audio message purportedly recorded by the girls in which they bid goodbye to their parents and revealed they would take their lives to complete the Blue Whale game, according to Mizan Online, the judiciary news agency.
Iran’s communications and information-technology minister, Azari Jahromi, said on Instagram on October 22 that the incident was “shocking” and urged more parental supervision over teenagers’ use of social media.
In September, Jahromi said Blue Whale was inspired by “satanic ideas” and vowed his ministry would try to prevent its penetration in Iran by tightening its grip over the Internet.
In recent years, the Islamic republic has blocked access to YouTube and Western social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. That has led Iranian authorities to create one of the largest Internet filters in the world, although its citizens continue to access Western websites through tools like virtual private networks (VPNs), on which the authorities have clamped down.
Blue Whale appears to have started on VKontakte, a social-networking site widely used in Russia.
In a much-criticized article published in May, Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta claimed that the “vast majority” of the roughly 130 youth suicides in Russia between November and April 2016 were tied to Blue Whale.
Subsequent reports have debunked that assertion, and law enforcement and other experts have expressed caution over ascribing any deaths to the game.
Many Russian activists have argued for a greater focus on the factors that drive young people’s interest in such games, while many politicians have argued the phenomenon should lead to more online restrictions. [www.rferl.org]