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Building a Responsible Cyber Society…Since 1998

The Government of India has issued instructions to social media sites such as Google, Facebook etc to block links to the Blue Whale game. It is stated that some have implemented it and some have not.

Today social media accounts can be easily opened even by minors who donot have any contractual capacity. Children often donot want their parents to monitor their facebook accounts and donot even allow their parents to be their friends. So monitoring of the children’s social media activities by parents is nor practically possible.

In the early days of Internet yahoo mail had a system where a minor would be required to obtain parental consent before opening an account. Such system is no longer in existence.

Of course, even if such a restriction is imposed, it is possible that some minors may declare himself to be an adult and open an account. But when they post birthday wishes or photographs, it is possible for Facebook to identify.

At the same time FaceBook can tag an account by easily recognizable identifiers that a Facebook page is a “Minor Page” or an “Adult Page” so that some visitors can flag if the classification is inappropriate.

It is also possible for FaceBook to introduce a classification of “Verified” account so that the identity of a person is verified with some KYC document like an Aadhar number so that the possibilities of “Impersonation” is reduced. Facebook may retain the “Pseudonomization” if they want but at least allow a classification where only identified persons interact. The user applications such as mobile apps can then be designed to create a filter to block chatting and other content from unverified accounts to protect children.

Perhaps Government should consider having a dialogue with the social media players to see how the minor accounts can be flagged for monitoring either through their parents or though some NGOs or through filters in different applications.

Naavi

 

The “Blue Whale Challenge” game has been in discussion over the last fortnight in India. People have been alarmed at the deadly consequences of the Game which can take away the lives of their loved ones. There is a scramble for finding an effective solution to the problem at different levels.

There are many suggestions that are floating around on how to tackle this menace. One of the first demands is that Government has to “Ban” the game. There is also a demand that ITA 2000 has to be amended to regulate this (and may be other Games). There is also a demand that Parents need to monitor their children and also for Schools to educate the children.

The Government of India appears to have sent a request to some of the large Internet intermediaries like Google, Microsoft and Face Book to remove links to the game under their control. The measure is welcome but is not going to be sufficient since the spreading of the game is often through private chats and links can always be hidden with alternate names. It is also reported that variants of the game are emerging and therefore the removal of some of the links from Google or Bing Searches would not suffice. We can also observe that in many of the articles there are comments in which links are on demand. There is both curiosity as well as a demonic attraction for the game.

The efforts of the Government are therefore only a short term effort and will have to be supplemented by other measures from other stake holders.

Changes in law is a long term measure which cannot help us now. But the existing laws themselves may be good enough to bring some control if people really understand the essence of the law and how to interpret them. The regulators may need to remind the intermediaries about their responsibilities under Section 79 of ITA 2000/8 which are strong enough to bring some sense of responsibility in them.

There are ofcourse the issue of conflicts in law arising out of Privacy and Freedom of Expression consideration and some pseudo supporters of this “Freedom” who will start complaining if Government or Law starts talking of monitoring Child behaviour or forcing websites to bring down links etc. Even Child activists may say that excessive controls on children are not acceptable.

Many Schools have started creating awareness amongst its students. But most schools would like to push the responsibility back to the ParentsĀ to monitor their children so that they donot fall prey to depression and become victims of the game.

There is no doubt that highest stake in the adverse effect of the game is with the Parents and hence hey need to do more than anybody else to protect their children.

But we need to recognize that Parents are not necessarily equipped to handle all psychological issues connected with the growth of their children. There is also a fundamental barrier that “Familiarity breeds Contempt” and children donot listen to even good suggestions from the parents. There is a backlog of relationship issues between the Parents and Children and it is difficult to overnight change and expect that children will start listening to them.

How do we then empower the parents? is a challenge that the society has to address.

Just as “Panic Buttons” have been conceived in mobiles and configured for protecting women, there could be technological solutions to expand the configuration of the “Panic Buttons” to make them also as “Child Safe” buttons which can identify presence of Bluewhale or other identified malicious games in the mobile.

Perhaps the real solution does not lie with any one of the stake holders but with all of them acting together with the help of technologists.

The key to protecting our children is in the hands of Anti Virus and Anti Malware companies who can at short notice ensure that access to the game could be blocked.

Perhaps more effort is required in this direction. These are likely to yield instant positive results in substantially reducing the risk of children falling prey to the viles of the “Curators” of the Blue Whale game.

Naavi