Blue Whale ‘sinks’. Are investigators baffled by “death communities” scandal?
Founder of a so called death community Filipp Budeykin better known as Filipp Lis (Filipp Fox) was arrested a mere couple of months ago. The creator of the deadly entertainment is under an investigation now. The investigation is in full spate. However, the investigators face certain issues. Fake communities for suicidal people spread all over the Internet. Such communities often defraud and blackmail their members. The CrimeRussia investigated whether the police is able to separate the wheat from the chaff or not.
50 ruble fakes
The Internet got filled with people imitating Filipp Lis after he was arrested. Teenagers swarmed to the Internet, creating private communities. Pseudo-romantic glamour turned out to be tantalizing enough to outweigh threat of criminal prosecution. People playing games in these communities usually crave temporary popularity and likes. While such communities still 'assign' enthusiast of the trendy Internet entertainment to take pictures of their cut hands, many of them have already figured out a simple way to monetize teenagers’ thirst for mysticism.
People began selling assignments in such fake communities, according to Youth Security Service Head Leonid Armer. They are sold for very low prices (for example, 50 rubles). There are now other, more profitable communities. However, the degree to which they break the law varies significantly, just as their founders’ goals.
The Novaya Gazeta Newspaper published an article called Death Communities last May. It revolved around 130 Russian teenagers who committed suicide due to VK social network communities’ activities; the groups allegedly systematically incited children to suicide. Members of such groups were assigned various tasks. They were prohibited from telling other people about such tasks. It would usually be a “courage test”. Some sort of a secret quest that would end in a suicide. Such stories would be steeped in mystery and supplemented by pictures of the sea and whales, apparently in connection to the cetacean stranding phenomenon scientists still struggle to explain. Siny Kit (Blue Whale), f57, and Tikhy Dom (Silent House) are the most famous among such communities.
Specialists say there are the following types of fake death communities on social network websites today:
1. Thrill. Founders of such communities want to excite their subscribers. No one tries to persuade people to kill themselves there despite occasionally assigning self-harm tasks;
2. Breach of accounts and subsequent extortion. Teenagers are offered to play a game. They have to follow a link as a part of it. Once such a link has been clicked, a user risks either losing their account or becoming a victim of extortion and paying to get their account back. It is usually common swindlers who are behind such schemes. Amounts of payments demanded vary;
3. Extortion and blackmailing. Administrators demand nude selfies from school students at some point to later blackmail and get money from them (in this scenario, there is a risk a desperate young player may make an irrevocable mistake);
4. Trolling. Teenagers themselves create such communities to try and take on the role of a “lost souls’ savior”. Those willing to commit a suicide are usually trolled.
Publication of the information in media outlets caused a public outcry, forcing the police to do something about it. The Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation, or Roskomnadzor, banned 8 VK communities that were preliminary assessed as promoting suicide. On May 20, 2016, the Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation in St Petersburg opened a criminal case on accusation of incitement to suicide through social network communities.
Hysteria and investigation
The investigation is in tough situation. It has an almost impossible mission, according to The CrimeRussia's source. It is very unlikely it will be able to bring the case to court, let alone get the defendant convict. It is a common knowledge that in practice it is very hard to convict someone of incitement to suicide. That is exactly why in many law universities, professors do not recommend students choose this topic for their theses; there are very few such cases that resulted in conviction. The investigation has to prove the crime was committed over a long period of time. In other words, that the defendant incited the victim to suicide systematically and over a long period of time.
It was the 1st time the modern law enforcement came across such a large scale criminal case with such a high number of victims. Another thing that makes the situation even tougher is that the instigator and victims communicated through social networks; many teenagers who played such deadly games simply deleted messages to hide their dangerous games from their parents.
The investigation keeps facing obstacles even to this day. Administrators of such communities, so called “supervisors”, who hid behind fictional names, are now “shifting” their user names on one another, screaming about how they were the first ones to realize how horrible these games were and to persuade community members from committing suicide. Numerous fake death communities that spread around the Internet and an increased number of imitators “help” real death communities hide; they went underground but did not disappear. Police officers now have to be ridiculously careful to catch them red-handed. As you know, the investigation strongly suspects Filipp Budeykin was not the only instigator-administrator. Will the investigation be able to catch others? The question remains unresolved.
The Department of the Committee has already asked St Petersburg resident for help with the investigation of the controversial criminal case opened for breaking part 4 of Article 33 (Complicity in a Crime) and Art. 110 (Incitement to Suicide) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Administrator of a death community Filipp Budeykin also known as Filipp Lis and his yet unknown accessories are accused of death of at least 15 teenagers, according to the Office of Public Affairs of the Central Investigation Department of the Committee. However, the investigation believes the number of victims is much higher.
Outcome and aftermath
Secret societies have always been popular. Both average citizens and kings and ministers sought to join them. There are numerous examples throughout the history: from ghostly Priory of Sion to famous Freemasonry. It was not children who played these games but adults. No one tried to study metal state of either initiates or founders. Neither did anyone try to prosecute them for lethal cases.
The investigation against Budeykin was officially continued in early January. The defendant is undergoing a psychological and psychiatric examination in the framework of the criminal case. Assessment of his mental state may make the future sentence both softer and harsher.
According to the law, Budeykin may be assigned to undergo outpatient psychiatric treatment in prison (if court convicts him) if he is diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder (psychological ones do not count). He will be prescribed compulsory treatment if diagnosed with serious psychiatric disorders. This means almost life-long treatment in mental hospital. The latter option will be poor consolation for parents of the dead teenagers; they want people guilty of their children’s death to carry a real sentence. Will the investigation be able to make it happen given the complicated and foggy judicial prospects? No one really knows.
Presumably, it concerns the US response to Ukraine’s help in the investigation against Joseph Biden, Trump’s main rival in the 2020 presidential election, who allegedly was in collusion with Kiev during the previous campaign.