Hazizaj: Children in Albania, threatened while playing online game "Jonathan Galindo"

Hazizaj: Children in Albania, threatened while playing online game "Jonathan Galindo"

Recently, another online game seems to have started threatening children. Its name is Jonathan Galindo. Many referrals of denunciations through ALO 116 have come to the ISIGURT.AL platform and the intervention of experts has been requested. In an interview for the national daily “Gazeta Shqiptare”, the General Director of CRCA has detailed the situation and the work that has been done so far, to prevent this situation.

Below you will find the full interview of the CRCA Director, Altin Hazizaj given to the journalist Voltiza Duro.

1. Have you had any cases related to Jonathan Galindo's referred to your organisation?

The Albanian National Child Helpline (ALO116 Albania) referred to our National Platform for Safe Internet (ISIGURT.AL) five cases of children, who at different times, but all within the same week (last week) received threats and complained about this game. Following the verifications made by our staff, which resulted in the veracity of the information provided by the children, the cases were sent for prosecution - according to our standard procedure - to the Cybercrime Unit, in the State Police. A few days later they came out with an announcement, where they called on parents and children themselves to show maximum care with this game or to avoid playing it.

2. How endangered do the children feel and what age group are they?

The children have been incredibly anxious and scared. They have communicated with various persons, who have threatened that if they did not enter one of the challenges of the game, or if they did not participate, then the unknown persons would share personal materials of the child's parents or the child himself. This has been the most traumatic part for children, who have faced the "fact" in quotes that these strangers possess intimate material of the parents or the child. It is understood that most of the children because of this have been extremely scared as on the one hand they had to think for themselves and on the other hand if they failed for the fate of their family members. It is an exceedingly difficult dilemma to put on the shoulders of an adult, not a child. The children were in the age group of 10-14 years.

3. What challenges were you asked to perform in the game?

In fact the children did not give many details of the challenge they were asked to develop, because they were so frightened that even the experts who spoke to them had to deal with identifying the threat, calming the child but not recognizing of challenge. Today, as we are more "calm down", we have the same question. We agreed to ask ALO  116 to contact the children again in a timely manner for details that were not relevant at the time of the denunciation - compared to the risk presented to you.

4. Have they received threats?

Yes, all the children had felt incredibly threatened. Most of them were threatened on their parents, so "if you do not play, we will make public a video of your parents…" implying that the material was inappropriate and would expose the parents to an improper behaviour. Another part has been threatened with their videos, something like "look, we have your intimate videos that we will make public online". Being at a vulnerable age has made children feel seriously threatened and this has prompted them to call the Child Helpline (ALO 116 Albania).

5. Who do you think is behind this game and how much access can the juveniles who fall victim to them have access to?

It is not yet known who is behind this game, which is in the same danger class as the Blue Whale. Both games were generated in Russia and I would not be surprised if they (the Russians) did it for propaganda purposes or to show how weak children in the West are, including the fact that are putting the lives of children at risk. The fact that such games continue to come from Russia is either indicative of the fact that children there are vulnerable or their scientists want to put children to extreme tests, and who succeeds may be indicative of individuals that the Russians themselves are trying to find. These aspects need to be studied better and more deeply by the Police and the State, to strengthen the system on the one hand and on the other hand to prevent any possible crime.

6. Were the parents of the children who contacted ISIGURT.AL and ALO 116 Platform aware of the situation? What has been their reaction?

I do not know that the parents were informed about this event before the police notification.

7. How can minors be protected from this game?

In principle they should be protected as any other game. Our conviction is that this game as long as it has these features, should not be played at all. There are plenty of other online games suitable for children of all ages and they can learn above all. Second, children should not spend hours navigating online because it is not convenient and moreover it is dangerous. Today the internet has become the main place where paedophiles are searching and finding their victims. Parents need to be aware that the internet is full of dangers and there are many other tools that can be used to inform or entertain the child. Books, children's movies, play between children themselves, nature walks or going to the beach are many times healthier than standing in front of a computer screen for hours and hours. Parents need to create a fair balance in children’s lives, between learning, play, fun and the virtual world.

8. Does the dangerousness of this game go as far as self-sacrifice?

The game is being watched with concern in many European countries. We are closely following what measures other countries will take. We are not aware of any such cases but knowing the vulnerability of children and the threats made to them online, I would not be surprised if something like this happens. Therefore, we made public the dangers of this game insisting that children and parents be informed. On this occasion, I also thank the media for having widely covered this concern, including the newspapers.

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