‘Momo challenge’ stories a hoax

Messages from ‘Momo’ allegedly encouraged youngsters to engage in a variety of self-harming activities.

Periodically the internet becomes gripped with a variety of challenges. These have included walking next to your car dancing, stretching out like a plank and if some lower-quality media sites are to be believed, killing yourself.

The Momo challenge is the most recent with various reports, claiming children receive anonymous threatening messages tied to pictures of “Momo,” an unrelated sculpture of a grinning figure with dark hair and bulging eyes created by a Japanese special effects company, on their Whatsapp or Youtube. These messages allegedly encourage youngsters to engage in a variety of self-harming activities from cutting their hair, to taking pills, stabbing themselves or even committing suicide.

According to Snopes.com the urban legend around the game originated in mid-2018 with a report that a 12-year-old Argentinian girl had been motivated by the “Momo Game” to hang herself from a tree in her family’s backyard near Buenos Aires. Since then the deaths of two young men in India were also reportedly tied to the “Momo Game Challenge” as well as the suicides of a 12-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy in Barbosa, Colombia.

Now the rest of the world seems to be catching up as stories of scary Youtube videos, and children attempting to kill themselves litter the tabloids.  Warnings have been issued in the media, which caution that Momo-related threats and suicide imagery were being inserted into videos viewed by children on YouTube and elsewhere.

“The Momo thing is much more akin to an urban legend right now,” said ReignBot, a YouTuber famous for videos exploring creepy things on the Internet. ReignBot’s video about the “Momo Challenge” has more than 2 million views.

“People are claiming what Momo is and what Momo does, but not that many people have actually interacted with the account,” she said. “Finding screenshots of interactions with Momo is nearly impossible and you’d think there’d be more for such a supposedly widespread thing.”

This trend of people hyping Momo up without any actual evidence is even seen in the viral message written by a British mother that has sent tabloids in that country into a furore over the “game”.

The women from Westhoughton, England has subsequently acknowledged that her son was never actually contacted by “Momo” but had instead been told by “some kids at school … to look at the Momo Challenge”.

The message that the whole Momo legend is non-existent is being spread by interest groups and charities in the UK, with researchers saying there was just no credible evidence it even existed.

The Samaritans and the NSPCC have dismissed the claims the game was a threat, saying that while there was no evidence that the Momo challenge had initially caused any harm itself, the ensuing media hysteria could now be putting vulnerable people at risk by encouraging them to think of self-harm.

The UK Safer Internet Centre has also called the claims “fake news”. YouTube has announced that it has thus far “seen no evidence of videos showing or promoting the Momo challenge on its platform”.

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