As we wake up today to the news that two boys in Bangalore were detected to have been playing Blue whale challenge “game”, the threat seems to be spreading fast. Bangalore is reported to be the sixth city in the world to have searched most for Blue Whale on the Google.
Some have suggested that the increased media attention on Blue whale is actually making more people take up the game. However today’s incident indicates that friends in a school observed and reported to their teachers about the two boys suspected to have been playing the game and the matter then has been reported to the Police and further action has been taken.
This clearly indicates that “Awareness” has actually saved these two persons from proceeding further and vindicates the strategy of containing the damage suggested in the earlier article…. The Blue Whale Challenge.. Where is the Effective Action Point for Control?
Can Courts find a solution?
Following the many reported incidents, there has been a tendency to file PIL in Courts and seeking a judicial remedy to the problem. Even the Central Government has swung into action issuing instructions to Google and Face Book to block access to Blue Whale Challenge game. A lot has been written about how parents, schools and Internet intermediaries need to do etc.
I have also previously discussed the nature of the threat in the article… The Psychology behind Blue Whale Challenge which Claims one life in India… which may also be referred to now.
We must understand that Blue Whale Challenge threat is not like a typical Cyber Security threat which can be addressed by traditional Information Security solutions such as “Firewalls” and “Anti Virus”.
This is a threat that arises out of “Internet/Mobile Addiction” in the first place and “Blind Faith in Virtual Content” in the second place.
Unless we address these two sub threats, we will not be able to make progress in mitigating the risk of Blue Whale. There is no doubt that all stake holders namely the Parents, School, the Intermediaries and the Government have a role in addressing this issue but it is necessary for all of us to appreciate the root causes before jumping into solutions.
De-addiction to Internet/Gaming/Mobile
The first task in mitigating the Bluewhale challenge is trying to address the “De-addiction” requirement of a subject from adverse effect of addiction to Internet or Gaming or Mobile. Gaming addiction is more dangerous than Internet addiction and Mobile Gaming addiction is even more dangerous.
Identification of “Addictive Behavioural Pattern” can be done by the parents since they have an opportunity to observe the children’s behaviour to some extent. However, we must also recognize that in most homes today, children enjoy a high level of privacy and it is not possible for parents to always be aware of what their children are doing. In fact, many parents would be happy if children leave them free to watch TV serials and lock themselves up in their study rooms. Some parents are too busy with their official work including attending to calls at odd hours etc and cannot spare time to watch and interact with children.
We also understand that the case in Madurai as well as two cases in Bangalore are of children in the age group of 18 and 19 who are actually “Adults”. Our Supreme Court feels that “Privacy” is a fundamental right and therefore if any Parent tries to intrude into the Privacy of the Children’s mobile, then they need to face challenges from their children that their privacy is being intruded.
There are some technical solutions which are essentially spywares that the parents can install in the children’s mobiles and they would be tempted to do so. However, this is not recommended and is considered counter productive.
Blue Whale is a game which starts with a compromise of the device and the Curator takes full control of the mobile from the very beginning. Hence even if the child does not identify the spyware presence, the Curator would find out and may warn the child that the Parent is spying on them and also use it as a tool to prove that “Parents are not to be trusted”.
Even Courts are today confused as to how to deal with a complaint about any content in the mobile and whether its access would be a violation of Privacy.
I would like to state that since “Privacy” is still a right that can be over ridden for interests such as “Security” and also “A person who is psychologically under the control of the curator..or suspected to be so” can be considered as “Mentally not in control of himself”, Parents or Teachers who try to find out the contents of a mobile of the Child for checking on the Bluewhale threat cannot be said to be infringing on the Privacy.
Schools may display a notice to this effect in their premises, confiscate and check the mobiles of students if need be and if this is objected to and challenged in a Court we should fight until a 11 member Supreme Court bench clarifies the limitations of the right to privacy.
Legally speaking, if the mobile has been purchased by the parent and he/she hands over the mobile to the child with a specific indication that it is on lease to him/her and the parent retains the right to observe and monitor the use of the device including inspection of the content, no Court should be able to interfere on Privacy grounds even if the child is an “Adult”.
Despite this support of the parental rights to spy on the children’s mobile habits, I would like to make it clear that I do not recommend it from the point of view of maintaining the harmonious relationship between the parent and child.
Hence I consider that the Parents role would be only to identify the “Addiction Behaviour”. There are three important parameters for this which I have highlighted earlier namely
a) Immersive tendencies... forgetting the time when on mobile
b) Substitution tendencies... replacing physical activities with mobile activities
c) Irritable tendencies…. getting angry when brought out of the mobile world
If it is confirmed that the child addictive, expert help need to be sought for counselling for which the School is in a better position to administer.
At the Schools, apart from building awareness, there is a need to
a) Make an Internet Counsellor available for consultation
b) Initiate a whistle blowing program so that friends can identify the Bluewhale hooked children and report it to the management.
If Courts and Government wants to provide direction, they should focus on mandating the appointment of Internet Counsellors who are child psychology specialists with an understanding of Internet and game addiction problems.
“Internet De-addiction” and “Game-De-addiction” programs should be a focussed activity in Schools to mitigate the Bluewhale challenge risk.
Breaking the Blind Faith
The next mitigation effort is to break the blind faith that the addicted persons exhibits on anything which is on the Internet.
We often train small children going to school that “they should not trust strangers”. This has been mostly successful and children are today conditions to distrust strangers.
Now we need to reinforce this instruction and make children understand that they should not trust strangers on the Internet who come as “Friends” in Face Book or Whats App or SnapChat.
I consider that this is the single most important thing we need to do in the wake of the Bluewhale havoc.
Unfortunately we all have contributed to the conditioning of the Children into thinking that “Google” or “Wikipedia” is the “Most Trusted information source” on anything on earth. Most times this is true.
But we are already aware that if a pop up appears stating “Your Computer is Infected”, we now know that we should not trust this.
Also, if we get an e-mail “Your Mobile/E Mail has won 1 Million US dollar prize”, we know we need to ignore.
When we receive an e-mail from a Bank stating that “You need to update your security information” or a phone call stating “Your Credit Card needs to be replaced” or “Bonus is payable to you on your insurance Policy” or “Income tax refund is due to you…” , “I am in London and have lost my passport..please send me money urgently“, “I am a Nigerian Prince and want your help to stash away a few billion dollars”…etc…etc we know not to believe it.
Similarly, if some body comes on line and says “I am your friend”, we should let our Children suspect if this is a genuine “Friend” or a “criminal in the garb of a friend”.
We know how the 13 year old Megan Meir was cheated by a mother of a classmate who impersonated as a 16 year old ” Cute Boy” eventually leading to the suicide of the girl.
We also know how a software professional in Canada was fooled by a middle aged lady in Coimbatore into believing that he was chatting with a beautiful young girl ready to marry him but being kept under house confinement by her parents and extracted over Rs 3 lakh worth gifts from him.
We also know how a Gujarat Ambuja Cements Executive committed a fraud of over 2 crores making a person in Dubai believe that he is actually a “She” who had fallen in love with the victim, committed suicide since he rejected her and Police are on the look out for him to be arrested…etc
Today it is our responsibility to teach our young children that Internet is full of such “Impersonation” and “Cheating through Impersonation” and when some body appears on Facebook chat and says, you seem to be depressed, you can chat with me as a well wisher….we need to be on our guard.
We need to condition our young brains that when we interact on the Internet with strangers, we donot even know if he is a man or a woman, boy or girl, a pedophile or a scamster and hence we need to distrust him from the go.
Internet has so many good things and we the Parents and Schools are ourselves responsible for introducing the addictive tendencies in our children.
Very early in the life of a toddler, parents start showing Mobile and playing you tube videos of Nursery rhymes as the child keeps staring at the wonderful video that plays with colour and sound. A little later we enjoy our children playing games on the mobile trying to shoot down bad people or strike down an opponent with a Taekwando kick. Through out the growing period of the child in the pre-schooling days and later, the child is observing that his parents are always on the mobile …may be for official business… of for WhatsApp chatting… and looks at a Mobile as a “Toy of the Grown Up”.
When the child moves to the school, teachers say… Go to Internet and find out from Wikipedia…. Baiju advertisement says… learn through your mobile… Friends say if you want o know the meaning of a word, check with Google…and not dictionary… and so on.
With all these behavioural traits exhibited around us the child grows up picking up the addiction along with the blind faith on the contents on the way.
Just as a child who growing up seeing people all around him smoking, drinking and partying getting addicted to such habits, a child growing up in an environment where every body including his teachers look to Internet for guidance makes him believe that what is said on the virtual world is “Truth”. If “Siri” says traffic is heavy on a road and you need to take diversion, the child is conditioned to believe it. If somebody says he/she is actually Siri and chatting with him/her on the Facebook to relieve of his depression and parental neglect, it is natural that he will believe and go behind this “Virtual Fake Siri” like going behind the pied piper.
Thus “Mobile Addiction” and “Blind Faith in virtual content” is what we have taught our youngsters. The Curators of Blue Whale are now exploiting this “Conditioned Mind” and using “Cyber Hypnotism” to take control of the vulnerable kids.
“Hypnotism” requires a “Communication” between the hypnotizer and the subject. In a physical world, we try to make the subject relax and listen intently to our suggestions until he falls into a trans, establishes a private communication network with the hypnotizer and starts taking suggestions directly into his sub-concious mind. The hypnotizer is also able to leave “Post hypnotic suggestions” which could change the attitude and behaviour of subjects even after they come out of trans.
Now look at the medium of Internet and the face book chat. The subject is all alone, staring at the computer screen ready to listen (through ear phones some times) intently and without disturbance to the voice coming from the other side or see the words and picures appearing on the screen. For a seasoned hypnotizer, this is an ideal condition under which he can get the subject into a trans at a snap of his fingers. The role of “Horror movies” used by Bluewhale curators is a way of softening up the subject so that he starts losing his self confidence and moves from a depressed state to depressed cum fearful state in which suggestions are accepted readily.
If there is any resistance, the hacker will use the information he has got on the subject which he has gathered by planting a trojan and through his research on face book status etc., to make the subject believe…. “I Know everything about you and your dear ones around you… I Can harm them if I want…just like what you have seen in horror movies…”.
If the subject is already depressed, the curator may reinforce the depressed feeling… you are right to be depressed…continue…be more depressed…until you feel that you donot deserve to live…
There is one belief under which all hypnotists work. It was that under hypnosis you cannot over ride certain basic attitudinal beliefs since the natural resistance mechanism will come to defend the individual. For example, you cannot make an ordinary person to commit a murder when he is a trans. The Blue Whale is challenging this basic principle since it is successful in driving the subject to even committing suicide.
We need to either give up this myth or find a new logic on the conditions under which a hypnotic subject may be made to work against his fundamental beliefs.
We may remember that the last act of “Suicide” for a subject who completely believes that he is a life not worth living, is actually a feeling of “Success”. He is perhaps made to believe that though I have failed all through my life, I am recording at least one successful act in life of jumping down this high building and taking away my life.
Possibly, the conventional “Anti hypnotic resistance” is over come because of this “Feeling of Success”.
Under psychological analysis, it is difficult not to appreciate the ingenuity of the Game and it is no wonder it was created by a psychology student. Just as Technologists are enamored by the Bitcoin and Block Chain, psychologists and hypnotic practitioners may get enamored by the game as it teaches them how to mesmerize and hypnotize through the Cyber Medium without the need to dangle a pendulum before a subject relaxing in an easy chair in a room with a dull read light.
We should not therefore fall into a false sense of security by the Government asking for non existent links to the games to be removed. If at all Google or Facebook has to be of help, they should be able to use “Artificial Intelligence” to pre-identify vulnerable victims and monitor their chats. If successful they may be able to identify “Suggested hyper links in Chat conversations” and filter them against known darkweb addresses, horror movies etc.
If Courts want to be of help, they can first direct Schools to put in place an infrastructure for identifying potential victims and administering counselling.
Schools Calling the Police is not necessarily a nice thing as Police are not equipped to handle the psychological issues of children and in fact make children feel more afraid and guilty with a feeling of shame.
If Courts and the Government can persuade Facebook and Google to monitor Chats to identify potential victims, they can do so. But herein comes the catch… Are they going to be guilty of “Privacy Invasion”?
We need to ask the Nine honourable Judges who passed the dictum “Privacy is a Fundamental Right” to let us know if monitoring the chats of vulnerable children would be allowed?… by the Parents?…by the Teachers?….By the Police?…..By the Intermediaries?….By the Government?…
…..perhaps we need an 11 member Supreme Court bench to decide on this.
We can also look at some technical solutions at ISP level where ISPs may be allowed to run filters against specific devices..termed “Restricted Access” where Parents will be allowed to restrict access to Internet or Gaming on a selective basis in their children’s mobiles because they own the device and the internet subscription.
Here again, the Supreme Court may come down and say we are depriving some other fundamental right such as “Freedom of Speech”, “Freedom to go anywhere on the cyber space”, “Freedom to browse through dark net”, “Freedom to play any game we want”, “Freedom to chose our entertainment source” etc….
The decisions in the case of both Section 66A and Privacy shows that we need our Judiciary to understand how good things like “Rights” have to be peppered with “Responsibilities” and “Duties”. It is not enough if Indian Judiciary is appreciated in foreign press as “Most Mature to uphold democratic principles”. It has to also understand that all Rights come with the need to manage the security of the environment. This applies as much to freedom of speech of Kashmiri Militants as the use of technology by psychopaths like the creators of Blue Whale.
P.S: Here is an interesting photograph where if you keep your eyes half closed, you see a smiling girl. If you open your eyes wide open, you see a devil like face. It depicts Blue whale game and other addictive games appropriately. Let’s look at Blue Whale challenge with our eyes wide open.