Is Censorship Coming Back to Tunisia? Court Order Bans ‘Blue Whale’ Online Game
16 March 2018
A Tunisian court has ordered authorities to censor two online games that allegedly lead teenagers down a path to suicide. The issue has raised public concerns about self-harm — but also about arbitrary internet censorship.
The ruling calls on the Tunisian Internet Agency (known by its French acronym ATI) to block access to the Blue Whale Challenge and Mariam games, even though ATI has no legal mandate to block online content.
The Blue Whale Challenge is a decentralized online game where players are instructed to carry out specific tasks that include self-harm. After fifty days — in some documented cases — they are told to commit suicide. Mariam is a Saudi-developed horror-game that revolves around a lost girl, whom players help guide back home.
Apart from the fact that this would take ATI beyond the bounds of its legal mandate, the court order to “block” Blue Whale Challenge also fails to acknowledge the decentralized nature of the game. Blue Whale is not hosted on a single platform, but is instead orchestrated by various anonymous administrators interacting with players in private social media chat groups.