The Kenyan government has ordered an immediate ban on the popular online game “Blue Whale Challenge” through its social media platforms, following reports that a Kenyan teenager committed suicide from the game.
On Monday, Kenyans woke up to the sad news of the untimely death of 16-year-old Jamie Njenga, a Form 2 student at JG Kiereini Secondary School in Kiambu County, who reportedly committed suicide after playing the game on May 4th.
In a statement released Tuesday, Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) CEO Dr. Ezekiel Mutua said his office had been receiving complaints from parents and stakeholders in the education sector on the psychological and physical dangers the game poses to children.
We have also ordered for the withdrawal of the game from all social media sites in Kenya and asked all Internet Service Providers to ensure it is not accessible in Kenya, Mutua said.
Game of Death
According to Dr. Mutua, the social media game, which has been in existence for several years, is being used to manipulate children to perform dangerous tasks through a 50-day series of traumatizing challenges.
The tasks include watching horrific movies, self-torture, and ultimately committing suicide in order to be regarded as the winner.
Dr. Mutua also revealed that there are several versions of the game, including “A Silent House,” “A Sea of Whale,” and “Wake Me Up at 2:40 A.M.,” among other social media variations.
“It is disturbing that the main target of this game is children who are vulnerable on account of their limited level of judgment and high susceptibility to peer pressure,” Dr. Mutua added.
As a content regulator, Dr. Mutua has issued a stern warning to content distributors in the country, vowing to prosecute anyone found allowing children to play the challenge.
Under the Kenyan Film and Stage Plays Act Cap222, it is illegal to expose children to any content that is suitable for adults only.
Dr. Mutua said they are already working closely with law enforcement agencies to ensure the game is not available in any public facility, including cyber cafes and gaming joints, across the country.
“The Board will liaise with the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) to find ways of blocking access to social media gaming applications that pose dangers to children locally under the Child Online Protection Programme,” Dr. Mutua said.
Twenty-one-year-old Phillip Budeikin, one of the creators behind the “Blue Whale Challenge,” was arrested in Russia Wednesday, where he pleaded guilty to inciting teenagers to suicide.
In fact, Budeikin told the Russian press that his victims were “biological waste” and that he was “cleansing society,” according to the BBC.