Mobile games like the Momo Challenge and Blue Whale are a threat to society. These games not only encourage self-harm among players but also incite suicide in extreme cases. Considering the ill effects of these games, Pakistan has decided to ban them.
How does Pakistan plan to ban these suicidal games?
Pakistan IT Minister Dr. Khalid Maqbool announced the ban when addressing the media on Sunday.
“These games don’t have any place in Pakistan as they are destroying the youth and are one of the key players in suicides taking place worldwide,” the minister said.
Additionally, he said the country’s Cyber Crime Division will monitor and take severe action against people involved in developing and promoting such apps. The minister said a law will soon be passed to ensure that making, sharing and using such apps is a crime under the Cyber Crime Act, according to Express News.
The ban on suicidal games follows the instructions given to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) in October 2017 to create awareness about the impacts of such games using media campaigns. The PTA was directed after reports that several Pakistani youths were apparently participating in the Blue Whale game.
It must be noted that the Momo Challenge and Blue Whale game don’t have any specific app on major app stores. Instead, the hugely popular messaging app WhatsApp is being used to push teenagers into taking up such challenges. Thus, it remains to be seen how the government plans to check the spread of these games.
The task becomes more challenging for authorities when considering the fact that WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption. Additionally, the Facebook-owned messaging app does not share user data with authorities.
What are the Momo Challenge and Blue Whale game?
Both the Momo Challenge and Blue Whale game have taken hundreds of lives globally. Concerned authorities in several countries have been warning parents about the evil motives of these games.
The Momo Challenge uses an image of a woman with bulging eyes and ugly features. The image was stolen from Japanese artist Midori Hayashi, who is not related to the game in any way. This deadly game has claimed the lives of many teenagers. For instance, authorities in Argentina are investigating the death of a 12-year-old girl who filmed a video of herself for the game before she died.
Unlike the Blue Whale game, the Momo Challenge operates via WhatsApp. The youths who take up this challenge first have to add a mysterious number to their contact list. Then the number sends them violent messages and bizarre orders like posting images or videos of self-harm.
Similar to the Blue Whale game, the game administrator is aware of the player’s personal info. Thus, players are often threatened to follow orders. For instance, in India, a man was allegedly threatened after he refused to obey the instructions from a “Momo” account. His bank details were also reportedly sent to him by an unknown number on WhatsApp.
In the Blue Whale game, which was started by a Russian and has reportedly taken several lives in India, Pakistan and other countries, players are assigned daily tasks like watching horror movies, waking up at unusual hours and more. The difficulty level of the tasks increases over time, eventually escalating to self-harm and suicide.
Signs to watch for
The Indian government also issued an advisory against the Momo Challenge last month. The advisory followed reports of suicide by some youngsters. India’s Ministry of Electronics & IT is also urging parents to look for signs of any danger in order to protect their children from any potential harm.
Signs to look for include the child spending a lot of time alone, withdrawn from friends, a persistent low mood, and unhappiness. A child under the influence of these games may look worried or have violent mood swings. Other symptoms to look for include not enjoying the activity they once loved doing or some visible mark of a cut or wound on the body.
“Check in with your child. Ask if there have been things stressing them, or anything that has them worried… Monitor your children’s online and social media activity to ensure they are not engaging in this game,” the advisory says.