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Russia probes incitement to teen suicides in social network

May 20, 14:06 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The investigation has been launched after recent publications by mass media that closed-membership groups in a popular social network VKontakte incited teenagers to suicides
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© Dmitriy Rogulin/ITAR-TASS

MOSCOW, May 20. /TASS/. Investigators in Russia’s St. Petersburg have opened a criminal case into pushing teenagers to suicide, the Investigative Committee told TASS on Friday.

The investigation has been launched after recent publications by mass media that closed-membership groups in a popular social network VKontakte incited teenagers to suicides.

During the probe, various expert evaluations will be carried out, including linguistic and computer expertise, to "establish all the circumstances of the crime and find and bring to criminal responsibility persons linked to committing it," the Investigative Committee said.

Media reports said that at least 130 teenagers killed themselves between November 2015 and April 2016 and almost all of them were members of the same groups in social networks. The authors of the report claim the work with teenagers on inciting them to suicide is "systematic and planned."

The suspects in pushing teenagers to suicides in social networks can be based in St. Petersburg, aide to head of the Main Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee in the Russian second-largest city Sergey Kapitonov told TASS. "Judging from the data of these groups in VKontakte, they can be in St. Petersburg," he said.

Russia’s consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor started blacklisting websites containing banned content on November 1, 2012. More than 9,500 links to pages of websites and social networks were checked. Most of them contained information on the ways of committing suicide and incitement to it.

Russian children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov has called to set up a task force at the Investigative Committee to combat the spread of websites that push children to suicide. This group should consist of representatives of Russia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office, the State Duma, the Federation Council, communications watchdog Roskomnadzor, the Health Ministry, the Education Ministry and the Communications Ministry.

"A task-oriented, planned and fierce information war is conducted against our children," Astakhov wrote on his Twitter account. "This should be understood and protection measures should be taken."

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