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Facebook Challenged Over Online Drinking Game Linked to Deaths

Facebook was under pressure from lawmakers Tuesday to curb an online drinking game known as "Neknomination" after the phenomenon was linked to the recent deaths of two young men in Ireland.

Government ministers and pressure groups called on the social networking site to ban pages promoting the game — also known as "neck and nominate" — in which users are dared to down alcoholic drinks while being filmed performing a stunt.

Successful contestants can then nominate other users to complete a similar task. The game is thought to have originated in Australia but has grown into a worldwide phenomenon.

Professor Frank Murray, Chairman of the Royal College Physicians Ireland's Policy Group on Alcohol called the game "irresponsible and destructive," and called on Facebook to act.

It follows the case of Jonny Byrne, 19, who drowned Saturday night after jumping into the River Barrow south of Dublin while attempting to complete a challenge.

The death was witnessed by his brother, Patrick, who said the game had “turned into a form of bullying” with those refusing challenges exposed to online ridicule.

Byrne's death followed that of 22-year-old Ross Cummins, who died in a Dublin hospital Saturday after also reportedly playing the game.

Ireland's Minister for Communication, Pat Rabbitte, called on Faceook to introduce a ban on pages promoting the game.

However, Facebook ruled out a ban on pages promoting the game, explaining in an email to NBC News that the site doesn’t “tolerate content which is directly harmful, for example bullying, but controversial or offensive behavior is not necessarily against our rules," adding, "we encourage people to report things to us which they feel breaks our rules.”