It’s a game that doesn’t physically exist. Hidden in a world that cannot be found, except to those who know how to find it, it swims into the mobile devices of users across the world. With no escape, the victim has 50 days before it all comes to an end. And their prize? Death. Welcome to the “Blue Whale Challenge.”

Similar to the fictional world of Jumanji, the player also enters into a world where anything is possible. Unlike Jumanji, the Blue Whale Challenge has one known outcome — death.  And, for those who have received an invitation to join the game, swim far away.

What Is The ‘Blue Whale Challenge?’
Screenshot of Blue Whale Challenge

With no physical existence, rumor has it the Blue Whale Challenge (“Challenge”) is today’s newest suicide game.  Lasting for a total of fifty days, the player is presented with 50 daily tasks that they must accomplish.

Coined after the act of “beaching” blue whales engage in,  the Challenge mimics one of the ocean’s great mysteries as to whale-suicide.

How Does The Game Work?’
#1 – Choosing The Victim

Administrators of the game almost always target those who appear to be most vulnerable. Often feeling a sense of belonging, they are groomed and nurtured. Eventually, they swim closer to the Challenge, too deep to escape dangerous depths of cyberspace.

Comparable to the film, “Would You Rather,” directed by David Guy Levy,  you have to wonder why these victims participate at all?  The administrator learns about their victim through well thought out social engineering techniques. By joining the Challenge, the user’s device is infected with malware that holds their information hostage.

Believing their information to be compromised, the victim has no choice but to play.

#2 – Completing The 50 Tasks

The only rule worth knowing is, once you join, there’s no quitting. Any refusal to complete a designated task, and the victim’s personal information is on the loose.

Lasting for a duration of fifty days and comprising of fifty tasks, it starts off fairly easy. For example. a victim may be asked to listen to a particular genre of music or to watch a genre-specific film. Yet, as the days go on, the tasks grow increasingly difficult. For example, the victim stays up until all hours of the night, or mutilates themselves with a whale symbol in their skin.

#3 – “Beached”

Of course, the final task and completion of the Challenge requires the person to take their own life.

Blue Whale: A reported suicide game, with less than a happy ending.

Digitizing Our Weapons

In the past year alone, we have seen social media used as the instrumentality to a crime. In other words, it acts as the bullet, and in some cases, the actual weapon.

For example, take the “Assault By A Deadly Tweet” lawsuit, as coined by Lawyer Slack founder, Keith Lee, involving Dallas journalist, Kurt Eichenwald . Or, the murder of Cleveland man,  Robert Godwin III, through Facebook Live.

The more the internet continues to grow and expand, so do the tools to which people utilize to carry out their activities. Even if it means carrying out illegal, criminal activity.

Recognizing Another Victim

While many of these signs may not be exclusively linked, most reports of those victimized by the challenge are said to have been sleep deprived, checking their mobile phones incessantly, wearing long-sleeved, loose clothing to disguise any self-harm that they may have inflicted upon themselves, and many others.

Where Does The Gavel Fall?

The legal ramifications for the administrators and those behind the Challenge are endless.

  • Online harassment
  • Extortion,
  • Inciting one to commit suicide
  • Murder

The problem is that every State is different when it comes to how they prosecute and charge an individual with cyber-crimes. While it’s a new area of law, some crimes are able to fit under pre-existing statutory crimes, while others have their own categories.

The more technical question is what happens when a person in one territory, commits a crime causing harm to an individual in another territory? Under the Effects Doctrine, a person can be held responsible for their acts committed from one state or country, into another state or country. The rationale behind it is you have the administrator intentionally targeting a citizen of territory, and causing harms, or “effects”, into another territory.

Believed to have originated in 2013 from a 21-year-old psychology student. the Challenge was invented with the purpose of “cleansing society.” The student was later expelled and eventually charged and convicted of inciting suicide of a minor.

Reports indicate that over one hundred lives have been taken because of the Challenge. Most recently, reports out of Argentina have been linking back to the Challenge. In lieu of its physical form, the Challenge still leaves behind strong digital  traces hinting to its existence. Reports coming out of India and Russia have also brought this issue to light.

What Can You Do?

#1 – Change Your Privacy Settings To Your Social Media Accounts

#2 – Be Smart, Don’t Play With Strangers

#3 – Report Any Traces

If you see people sharing posts via social media with hashtags like #f57, bluewhalechallenge, #curatorfindme, #i_am_whale, these are visible signs that a person is in need of assistance.

Original story posted by Andrew L. Rossow on Forbes.com

Drew Rossow is a contributing editor to Grit Daily. He is a criminal defense/internet attorney, writer, and adjunct law professor in Dayton, Ohio. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas. A Millennial, Rossow provides perspectives on social media crimes, privacy risks, Millennials, and business. Rossow consults for ABC, FOX, and NBC on the latest news in technology law.