Facebook has rejected calls to ban pages and videos linked to a “neknomination” drinking craze despite one death in Ireland being linked to the online dare.
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 Carlow in the Irish Republic, drowned after taking part in the stunt which sees people being challenged to post a video online of them downing drinks, then nominating others to do the same inside 24 hours.
Facebook declined to comment on the controversy but it is understood its approach is to advise users they have options to remove, block or hide messages which they find inappropriate or offensive or activity which they are not comfortable with.
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.”
Mr Byrne’s body was recovered from the River Barrow in Carlow.
His brother Patrick took to Facebook to express his frustration over his death during the game and asked others not to take part in it.
“My young 19-year-old brother died tonight in the middle of his nomination... he thought he had to try and beat the competition, 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 also changed his profile page to say “Stop ‘Neknomination’ Before it’s too Late. Share This.”
DUP councillor and former Mayor of Craigavon Carla Lockhart made an impassioned plea to her Facebook friends not to be tempted to take part in the “ridiculous drinking game”.
She said: “To all my friends on facebook and particularly the young people please please don’t get involved in this game you could well loose your life or the person you nominate could die as a result!!! Be strong and say NO! Your life is too precious!”
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, is reported to have originated in Western Australia.
It is understood Facebook was reviewing videos linked to the craze but that the posting of such material is not a breach of its rules or “community standards”.
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.
Ireland’s Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald warned young people are putting their lives at risk with their attitude to drink.
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.”