Blue Whale Content Blocked In India

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October 05, 2017 8:00 AM
Blocked

BLOCKED AS OF TODAY

As a result of a new wave of interest in the Blue Whale Game from India, I've decide to block all pages relating to the game for Indian visitors and as of today all these pages will re-direct to this explanation page.

Unfortunately this does mean the well researched information on the game I had previously posted is now unavailable to parents, charities, teachers, and others concerned about the game.

However, this may just be a temporary ban, I'll most likely reinstate the pages once the interest has died down. Alternatively, if you are represent a charity or educational institution, then please feel free to contact me. Please note that I do not have time to deal with queries from individual parents or those hoping to find the game for whatever reason.

My Pink Whale Game, a happier alternative to its more sinister counterpart is still available worldwide. I feel that removing this game, which has been praised in the press and has had ten of thousands of players, would be a step too far. I believe that Pink Whale is effectively distracting people from attempting to find the dangerous Blue Whale Game.

What Content Is Being Blocked?

Back in March 2017 I heard about a terrifying online "game" called Blue Whale which encouraged innocent teens to take their own lives. The game sounded like something of a myth which made it the kind of topic I write about on my website.

So, I researched the game, which originated in Russia and found that it was really nothing more than a myth. Russia already has a high base suicide rate and that actually none of the deaths had been irrefutably linked to the game.

The game, at least when I started writing about it didn't exist. While I wrote a rational and balanced report on the game, making it clear in bullet points at the top of the page that I thought the game was a myth, other less responsible journalists from all around the world have reported on the game as fact.

This scare mongering has resulted in a very real threat. Although the original Russian game still doesn't exist, as long as kids think it exists they will look for it and the only message kids are getting is that it does.

As this game is essentially nothing more than a private conversation carried out between the "player" and an "admin" it takes place behind closed doors in chatrooms and private messaging apps. Which means that anyone can copy this game and sooner or later kids looking for it will stumble across a copycat who will try endanger their lives.

My aim with my content has been to distract teens who are already looking for the game and to try to make them aware of the dangers of the game via a fake sign up process which basically asks them a series of questions designed to clearly explain the potential risk of playing. I feel that by using my safe, trusted and transparent website to try to encourage kids from looking for the game, is better than letting them search the internet where they'll almost certainly end up on the dark web or in private social media groups where their discussions are unmonitored, in secret and the information shared is probably a lot more dangerous and less rational than mine.

For example, every page which mentions the game on my website has links to suicide help and advice lines from around the world and simple bullet points at the top of the page highlight the dangers of looking for the game.

Because of the level of research I put into my page, I ended up high in Google for searches related to the game and as the myth has spread around the globe, I've seen visitors come to my website come from different countries all around the world. It started with Russia and Eastern Europe, then the UK and now India, where at least one death is said to have been caused by the game.

Why I've Blocked Indian Traffic

You may be wondering why I have decided to take this action. Well, quite frankly, it's not worth my effort. While I feel my attempts to distract teens from the game are beneficial, the website visitors I've had from India have taken up a lot of my time and on the whole seem unable/unwilling to understand my point of view on the game, this often results in rude/aggressive language being used against me emails, messages and comments.

I've been inundated with ignorant and rude emails from people asking for links to the game, despite the fact my website clearly states that I do not believe there is a game and that even I had a link I wouldn't share it with anyone but the police.

As a result of this I've been driven to put a message which pops up when visitor come to these pages of my website asking them not to contact me. I've had to disable Facebook comments across several pages and I've had to turn off the messaging feature on my own Facebook page as I didn't have time to respond to all the message I was getting.

A lot of the conversation I've had with Indian visitor do contain abusive language. I high percentage of those who have contacted me asking for a link to the game has resorted in abuse when I tell them there is no link. Maybe it's a cultural thing but all of the abuse is always along the lines of "f**k you," "mother f**ker" or something about "f**king your sister."

I've never seen this level of abuse from visitor from any other country before and their poor range of vocabulary and dim-witted insults made the conversations very tiresome.

I even had to do some development work on my website to automatically block any email sent to me through the contact form which mentioned the game and set an auto-reply on my email inbox warning people about the danger of the game.

The whole thing has been a ridiculous waste of time. I would have quite happily deleted all of my content months ago, my only worry was how Google would react to the removal of several popular pages of my website. Would it punish the domain as a whole? Is removal of pages bad for SEO? I don't know, but as I've worked very hard over the last year to boost my website with daily posts and articles, I wasn't really willing to take that risk.

The final straw was today, when the level of annoyance, time wasting and irritation caused by the game increased further. Unbelievably, I received an email from a government organisation in India which read:

"Instances of children committing suicide while playing the deadly Blue Whale Challenge Game have been reported in India. The Government is concerned about the availability of such games on Internet. In this regard, it has been reported to this Ministry that certain traces/suspicious contents are found to be available in the following URLs."

Suspicious content? On my website? Only my potions!

I thought it was a joke to start with because I couldn't believe that even government official in India were too caught up in all of this hype to actually read my content. I replied saying "did you not notice the pop up when you visited the website?"

They said "there wasn't one when we visited" however, I know this to be untrue because the URLs they included in the email end with a # which is a result of clicking the close button on the pop up message.

It seems that a team of people in India are to sit down next week to discuss my website, is there really nothing better to do? A government organisation discussing my stupid website and some content I wrote which was nothing more than the culmination of facts obtained through the media and internet discussions, all of which was and still is publicly available. The email continues:

"Considering the gravity and seriousness, the matter is proposed to be discussed in the Committee constituted under the provisions of Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for blocking for Access of Information for Public) Rules 2009, notified under section 69A of Information Technology Act 2000 scheduled on 09th October, 2017 at 16:30 Hrs (IST) at MeitY, Electronics Niketan, 6, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi -110003."

The email went on, but the last paragraph was hard to understand. I think they made a typo or missed out a couple of words but I think what they were trying to say is that I can attend this meeting should I wish or I am required to "ensure any such link of this deadly game in its own name or any similar game is immediately removed from your platform."

Firstly, of course I'm not going to travel to India to defend a couple of web pages which have already wasted enough of my time. Secondly, there are no "such link of this deadly game" anywhere on my platform so therefore there is nothing for me to remove.

I replied to the government office with the following message:

"I'm happy to block my Blue Whale content in India, but I feel it could actually be more dangerous to do so, as it would drive children to more dangerous websites. As my website is already getting traffic from the demographic that you need to pursued to stay away from this game, I would argue that working with me to optimise my content would be better than cutting it off and driving children elsewhere."

"By this I mean remove/tweak any information on the existing pages which you think maybe dangerous and add in any information you feel is beneficial. For example I currently have links to suicide helplines and charities listed on every page where I mention Blue Whale, although I don't have knowledge of mental health support in India, perhaps filling these blanks would be a more valuable use of time?"

"I urge you to actually click around my website and read my content. As I said in my previous email, my efforts have been praised in the press around the world, it's a shame you can't see the potential of my website in helping to resolving this problem. Driving teens to the dark web and other website (who's webmaster you won't have a dialogue with) isn't the answer."

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I think the Indian authorities are handling this badly and frankly I don't like the attitude of the Indian kids who have made contact with me through my website, so I think it's better all round to just block my content in India and let them resolve the issue themselves.

I did get a reply from India, "We appreciate your concern, efforts and views. We will take this as your inputs to the higher authorities and to the complainants during the discussion."

To be honest, I'm not too bothered by the outcome.
If you'd like to talk to someone about suicide, there is free help available and someone willing to listen to you:
In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted for free on 116 123, or visit Mind’s website.
In the US, call 1 (800) 273-TALK.
In Australia, Lifeline is on 13 11 14.
Hotlines in other countries can be found here.
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