The Centre today warned of action against internet-based social media platforms if they failed to remove links to the deadly ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ game that is suspected to be behind some of the suicides in Kerala and elsewhere in the country. ‘Blue Whale’ is a controversial internet game in which a series of tasks, mostly brutal, are given to players for a period of 50 days by the administrators with a final challenge requiring them to commit suicide. The player is asked to share photos after finishing the different levels of the game. The game is spread via links on social media platforms. “People are committing suicide due to Blue Whale game. We received many complaints including from the concerned departments,” Law and Information Technology(IT) Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters in Delhi. “Clear instructions have been issued to all the technology platforms that they must delink this game immediately because under the Indian IT ecosystem no initiative shall be permitted which provokes young boys to commit suicide. This is plainly unacceptable,” he added. Government on August 11 had directed internet majors – Google, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Microsoft and Yahoo – to immediately remove the links to dangerous online game Blue Whale Challenge, which has led to some cases of suicide of children in India and other countries. “I appeal all the platforms to abide by the direction which the IT ministry has given. It is important and the violation will be viewed very seriously,” Prasad said.
Expressing concern over the availability of such deadly game on the internet, the IT ministry said, “it is understood that an administrator of the game uses social media platform to invite /incite children to play this game, which may eventually lead them to take extreme steps for self-inflicting injuries including suicide”. The ministry said the proponent of Blue Whale Challenge should be reported to law enforcement agencies.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan hailed the Centre’s decision to regulate the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ game and urged people to alert authorities about the existence of related links and hashtags in cyber space. In a Facebook post, he also expressed happiness that the Centre had responded positively to his recent letter for banning the game. “The state government is taking all possible steps in this regard. Effective interventions are being done through Kerala police’s Cyber Cell and Cyberdome,” he said.
Urging internet users to be vigilant against such dangers and take necessary precautions, Vijayan said people should be ready to report the presence of websites having dangerous and objectionable content. Vijayan had on August 12 urged the Centre to take immediate steps to ban the Blue Whale game in the country “to save precious lives.” A Microsoft statement said it is looking into the request by the IT ministry on a “priority.”
Mumbai and West Midnapore district in West Bengal have reported deaths linked to the game. Two teens in Kerala are suspected to have committed suicide while playing this game. There were also reports of timely prevention of suicide attempts by boys in Solapur and Indore who were playing this deadly game. A PIL was also moved in Delhi High Court seeking directions to internet companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo to take down the links of ‘Blue Whale’. The petition was mentioned before a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shanker, which listed it for hearing tomorrow.
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In Kerala, the family of a 22-year-old man, who had committed suicide by hanging himself inside his home last month, today said they suspected that it was a case of ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ addiction. The mother of one Sawant, an Industrial Training Institute student, said he had slashed his arms with a blade and the family had then thought that it was due to some depression. He was taken for counselling many times, but his behaviour continued to be abnormal, his mother told television channels.
Sawant was addicted to some computer games for the past few months and he used to always play some games on his mobile and laptop and used to sleep in the morning after playing computer games the whole night, she said. Once he left home saying he was going to college and was found by a relative sitting on the edge of the Thalassery beach bridge. Thalassery police had told relatives that he must have taken the extreme step due to failure in a relationship. He used to watch horror films on his laptop and had slashed his wrists with a blade. He had also carved out ‘SA’ on his chest using a compass.
IGP Manoj Abraham said police was unaware if anyone had downloaded the game in Kerala. There has been no confirmation yet if there have been any ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ deaths from the state. Yesterday, the family of a 16-year-old boy in the state capital, who had committed suicide by hanging himself, had suspected that he had taken the step as part of the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ game. The school student from Vilapilasala in Thiruvananthapuram had allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself at his house on July 26. The boy’s mother told a Malayalam TV channel her son had downloaded the game last November.