First “Blue Whale” case in Milan

Young man investigated by police.

In the first case of its kind in Milan, a 20-year-old local resident has been placed under investigation by police on suspicion of incitement to suicide.

Using the Instagram social network, he is understood to have persuaded a 12-year-old girl living in northern Italy to harm herself with cuts in several places and to send him photographic evidence that she had obeyed.

Postal police – the branch responsible for overseeing internet use – have confiscated the alleged perpetrator’s laptop computer and telephone and the girl’s telephone to carry out a “technical investigation”.

The “Blue Whale” phenomenon is widely reported to be a game in which a “tutor” persuades adepts to carry out 50 tasks over a 50-day period, culminating in suicide. It is believed to have originated in Russia, and cases have been reported across the world, including in 16 other countries. Several suicides among young persons have been linked to the game, including in Italy.

Sensationalist reporting in news media has caused widespread anxiety among parents and teachers. In May, Italy’s postal police reported having received over 70 reports of related suspect activity.

However, more reasoned reporting, including on respected debunking websites and by the European Commission’s Safer Internet Centre, describe the game as a hoax. Authorities are nevertheless concerned about the danger of emulation.

The UK Safer Internet Centre has published advice for those concerned about the “Blue Whale” story.