An online drinking game called “Neknominate” has gone viral and is causing a threat to public health. The game is a combination of binge drinking, peer pressure, cyber bullying and social media gone crazy. In the game, players drink a huge glass of some alcoholic beverage while being filmed then the film is posted to social media sites like Facebook. Then another person is nominated to take it a step further; if they deny the challenge they are ridiculed. People have posted videos of drinking alcohol upside down from toilets, girls who drink and strip down in supermarkets, and cocktails of dead mice in daiquiris. Not surprisingly, five men in their twenties have died playing this game. The fifth victim, Bradley Eames, drank two pints of gin mixed with tea bags, the equivalent of thirty shots, in two minutes. He complained of feeling sick and was found dead the next day.
The problem has spread so quickly that legislators in different countries are calling for action from school intervention to public health announcements. In England, a person could face manslaughter charges for nominating someone in the game.
Facebook has issued the following statement over the viral game:
“We do not tolerate content that is directly harmful, for example bullying, but behavior which some people may find offensive or controversial is not always necessarily against our rules. We encourage people to report things to us which they feel breaks our rules, so we can review and take action on a case by case basis.”
In the meantime, Dr. Sarah Jarvis of the advocacy group Drinkaware has said Facebook has not gone far enough and must take responsibility for its part in the spread of the game. Dr. Jarvis said in part “If the thrill of seeing it was not there from your friends the game would fizzle out.”