For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul Fidalgo
Phone: (207) 358-9785
June 15, 2017
Scary warnings have been circulating on social media in recent months, asking parents, teachers, and police to beware of a hidden threat to children: a sinister online “Blue Whale game” that can kill! Understandably, this has led to calls for action to address this social media menace, but is it even real?
A typical warning about this game will describe a hidden online social media group, the aim of which is to encourage children to kill themselves. The game is said to assign tasks to group members for 50 days, which are said to include self-harming, watching horror movies, and waking up at unusual hours, with tasks growing progressively more extreme. On the 50th day, the mysterious manipulators behind the game reportedly instruct the player to commit suicide. To any parent, this is terrifying.
Drawing from urban legend research, the sociology of moral panics, and media literacy research, Benjamin Radford, Skeptical Inquirer deputy editor and author of books such as Bad Clowns and Mysterious New Mexico, takes a closer look at this disturbing phenomenon and offers parents and journalists advice about how to understand and talk about these social media reports from an appropriately skeptical perspective.
In his report, Radford also quotes expert Richard Saunders who explains how the need for news helps foment situations in which alarmist stories and “scarelore” are widely shared on social media.
CSI is a program of the Center for Inquiry (CFI), which strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.
Radford is available for media and comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net.