Neknomination: Facebook responds to craze after deaths

Pressure groups demand social media giant take action after the death of an Irish teenager was linked to the drinking game

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.

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