Blue Whale: Underground, unknown and dangerous
Despite demands for a ban on a game that is believed to have pushed a 14-year-old Mumbai boy to suicide, it may not be possible to bar the Blue Whale Challenge, an Internet expert said.
The ban issue was recently raised in the Maharashtra assembly and in the Rajya Sabha by members who called for provisions to remove such games from websites.
But the Challenge is not a game that can be downloaded on a phone or a website and therefore banned, Udbhav Tiwari from Centre of Internet and Society here said.
"Since there is no application or one specific website for the challenge, it can't really be banned -- not unless you completely ban the internet," Tiwari said.
Efforts to locate the game -- on Play Store and a series of websites -- yielded no results. The challenge can only be undertaken when its creators get in touch with would- be users.
All downloads for Blue Whale led to children's games that require an animated whale to cross various barriers.
Another Blue Whale challenge game, the link for which was provided by a cyber security expert, turned out to be a positive alternative for the notorious challenge, with players being asked to take part in motivational tasks such as doing push ups. The game ends with a message telling players that their life is precious.
But the deadly Blue Whale is a 50-day-challenge, which is believed to have originated in Russia and claimed over 130 lives across Russia and the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, where it is said to be trending.
Mumbai boy Manpreet Sahani, who allegedly jumped from the terrace of his seven-storey building on July 30, could be the challenge's first victim in India.
The game gives a task a day -- each one potentially fatal -- to the player for 50 days.
The tasks range from "carve with a razor 'f57' on your hand", and "wake up at 4.20 am and watch psychedelic and scary videos that the curator sends" in the initial days, to going to the "rail tracks at 4.20 am", "not talking to anyone else", and finally "jumping off a high building to take your own life" on the 50th day.
Driven by a series of hashtags connected with the game, the curators apparently spot their victims based on their posts on different online forums.
"The administrators of the challenge use different online forums to reach out to their victims. It can be Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp or any other online forum," Tiwari said.
For instance, a journalist from NB Bishkek news (Kyrgystan) writes in a personal account on the website about registering on Instagram as a teenage girl, and then making "a couple of naive posts, depressive photos" and specific tags. "After a day, they knocked on my face. - Are you in Game? - Yes," the journalist writes on NB