'Almost impossible' to ban Blue Whale game linked to teen deaths: Egyptian telecoms regulator

Ahram Online , Saturday 5 May 2018

Blue Whale
The Blue Challenge (Photo: Reuters)

A complete ban on “suicidal games” such as the recently reported Blue Whale is "almost impossible," Hossam Abdel Mawla, a representative of the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, said on Friday, Al-Ahram reported.

The Blue Whale online game has reportedly pushed several young people across Egypt to attempt to kill themselves or others.

Abdel Mawla's comments came during a meeting of the House of Representatives’ communications and IT committee to discuss the NTRA’s response to requests to ban such games.

"A complete ban on suicidal games such as Blue Whale is almost impossible, especially as their makers and senders may send them to users via social networking sites," explained Abdel Mawla.

 He said that efforts to discern the best technical means and face the dangers caused by such games are underway.

"The major problem is that these applications are being sent via social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter," Abdel Mawla said at the meeting.

The NTRA representative’s appearance before parliament is the result of an order by prosecutor-general Nabil Sadek that authorities carry out necessary measures to ban websites that transmit the Blue Whale and similar online games, after it was linked to several Egyptian teens’ deaths.

Abdel Mawla said that, following Sadek's decision, the NTRA has communicated with many telecommunication companies, and is currently studying all technical means which will help in dealing with the National Council for Regulation of Telecommunications.  

"There is no country in the world that has found a way to ban such games, and I would be deceiving you if I said we would succeed in Egypt to ban such suicidal websites or applications; yet I promise that we will provide the best that other countries have reached in dealing with similar applications," says Abdel Mawla.

The game reportedly starts with the player being assigned simple tasks such as waking up at a certain time and watching horror movies.

However, the tasks gradually become more severe, to challenge the player's capabilities, and the game threatens blackmail if they do not comply.

A 17-year-old Egyptian teen in Upper Egypt’s Sohag governorate set her house ablaze recently, reportedly on orders from the game’s admins, killing her mother and brother.

In another prominent case, 18-year-old Khaled El-Fakharany -- the son of former Egyptian MP Hamdy El-Fakharany – was found dead from hanging in his home in Gharbeya governorate on April 2.

In January, a 32-year-old mentally ill man reportedly killed his father to fulfill one of the game’s tasks.

Since the game was created, there have been reports of suicides linked to the game in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India and Tunisia, where it was recently banned by a court order.

The game was created in Russia in 2013 by Philipp Budeikin, a 21-year old former psychology student who was arrested and sentenced in August 2017 to three years imprisonment for inciting children to commit suicide.


Short link: