Facebook has rejected calls to ban pages and videos linked to the Neknomination craze, which encourages users to post videos of themselves carrying out stunts while inebriated – despite the death of a teenager in Ireland being linked to the drinking game.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte demanded the social networking giant act as a raft of interest groups including health chiefs and psychiatrists called for the phenomenon to be stopped.
Jonny Byrne, 19, from County Carlow, Ireland, was believed to have been taking part in the Neknomination craze when he jumped into the River Barrow and died on Saturday.
The drinking game encourages participants to film themselves “ necking” liquor while performing a stunt, before nominating a friend to do the same. Jonny had jumped in the river after downing a pint of alcohol.
A Facebook spokesperson said: "We do not tolerate content which is directly harmful, for example bullying, but controversial or offensive behaviour is not 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. We also give people the ability to remove themselves from an uncomfortable conversation through tools such as untagging and blocking."
Mr Rabbitte said the first responsibility is with young people falling for a "stupid ruse".
But he added: "But it would be helpful if Facebook agreed to take down pages, which promote a stupid and silly phenomenon."
Jonny Byrne’s brother, Patrick, posted a message on his Facebook page, urging people to stop taking part in the challenge.
“This neck nomination s*** HAS TO STOP RIGHT NOW my young 19 year old brother Jonny Byrne from Carlow died tonight in the middle of his nomination.
“He thought he had to try and beat the competition and after he necked his pint he jumped into the river. If people have any decency and respect they will refrain from anymore of this stupid nek nomination” he said.
He also changed his profile page to say "Stop 'Neknomination' Before it's too Late. Share This."
The individuals behind the Northern Ireland based Neknomination Facebook page have said that it will be discontinued following Jonny’s death and turned into an alcohol awareness page.
The most controversial internet crazes
The most controversial internet crazes
Twerking, a mixture of twisting and jerking, has been around since the late 1990s, but its popularity dramatically increased after Miley Cyrus 'twerked' at the 2013 MTV VMA awards with Robin Thicke, prompting fans to upload their own versions on Youtube - we've even had twerking stormtroopers. It's since been accused of corrupting the minds of young people and, last year, 33 students were suspended after making a video of themselves 'twerking' using school equipment.
2/7 Happy Slap
It's been almost a decade since the Happy Slap craze broke out in the UK, but what started out in as a small joke between friends in Lewisham in 2004 eventually became a nationwide phenomenon. Happy Slapping involved a victim being filmed on a camera phone getting slapped. As the craze spread, incidents became more and more vicious and it was linked to a rise in bullying in school playgrounds. In 2008, a teenage girl was sentenced to two years' detention after filming the fatal beating of a man.
Originating in Australia in 2008, the trend of 'planking' swept Britain a year later. The craze, in which people form a straight figure with hands down by their sides, had thousands of participants uploading their efforts on to Facebook. While most were harmless enough, the more daring have been known to plank across railway tracks and between buildings, causing major health concerns. In 2011, a 20-year-old man died after 'planking' on a seven-story building in Australia.
'Tombstoning' emerged in 2012 as a much more dangerous fad. It involved finding the highest rock to leap from, giving jumpers sufficient time to change their body position to resemble a tomb falling into the sea. It was invented initially as a way to keep cool during sizzling temperatures, but as the challenges became more daunting, some experienced horrific injuries as a result of jumping into shallow or rocky waters.
While not as dangerous as other internet fascinations, McDonald's staff are now finding themselves on the receiving end of another internet craze. 'McDiving' started last year and normally comes at the end of an alcohol-fuelled night out, where it is then customary for a 'McDiver' to go to the nearest McDonald's and launch themselves over the counter. McDonald's franchises have even started hiring bouncers at peak times of the day to deal with any mischief makers.
6/7 Gun Selfies
Where it actually came from remains a mystery, but the 'Selfie' remains a popular feature on the internet - it was even named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries in 2013. However, a number of gangs in America have taken it a step further, posting 'gun selfies' of themselves. Last year, two men were charged for 142 counts of possession of a firearm and were bailed by police after posting numerous photos. The craze has led to several calls for photos to be taken down, with parents fearing that children could try and create their own poses.
7/7 Gallon Smashing
Given that glossy floors are prominent in supermarkets, it would be deemed acceptable to see the occasional person slip over. But this is no accident. Gallon smashing started to appear on Youtube last year and has becoming increasingly popular in the US. It sees agile teenagers throw gallons of milk in the air as well as hurtling themselves on to the ground. However, with the mess, cost and inconvenience that is caused, the 'gallon smashing' craze has seen security stepped up in supermarkets.
And the Union of Students in Ireland has warned young people of the dangers of taking part and the impact this may have on other people.
Neknomination, which acts like an online video linked chain mail, to have originated in Australia, from where it has spread to the UK and Ireland.
Pressure groups, health agencies, ministers and interest groups all spoke out over the last 24 hours urging young people not to get involved in the practice.
Professor Frank Murray, of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, said more deaths are likely from such extreme binge drinking.
"The loss of a young person is tragic; never more so when it is completely avoidable. Sadly, this extreme binge drinking will likely lead to more deaths," he said.
Children’s Minister, Frances Fitzgerlad, also voiced her concerns. She told RTE: “It is a highly dangerous – potentially lethal – phenomenon, where an inappropriate peer pressure element adds to the risks.”
The Vintners' Federation of Ireland said the craze is wrong and dangerous and it undermines efforts to implement the sensible and responsible enjoyment of alcohol.
"On the one hand, we would appeal to Facebook and indeed all social media platforms to take the necessary action to have it discontinued. On the other hand, we would appeal to the individual to take a greater degree of responsibility for their own actions," the group said.
Northern Ireland's Public Health Agency also warned the craze can be highly dangerous.
"Real friends don't Neknominate. You have the right to say 'No'. Join the thousands of others who are standing up against this 'game'," a spokeswoman said.
"Drinking 'games' are not new, but they have the potential to quickly increase consumption of alcohol and this can be highly dangerous."
Additional reporting by Press Association