The Momo Challenge, elaborate hoax or murderous game

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A sinister force has been unleashed, preying on innocent children. Suicide and threats of death, a scary mask and an unknown perpetrator, the very makings of a dark and horrifying movie.

But is the Momo Challenge an elaborate hoax, an urban legend of the digital age, or is it fact? Is there someone really encouraging your child to harm themselves, before eventually encouraging your child to commit suicide?

Over the past few days, the Momo Challenge has gone viral as global panic sets in. This follows the Police Service of Northern Ireland posting a warning on Facebook in February, warning parents about the disturbing challenge.

Using the social media platform, WhatsApp, Momo not only apparently threatens its targets, but tells them to film the bizarre tasks, which involves self-harm and ends with the demand that the player commits suicide or endure being cursed.

Adding fuel to the fire, Momo appears in some YouTube Kids videos. Momo makes cameos in children’s favourite shows on the channel, such as Peppa Pig, videos on Fortnite and Mine Craft.

However, The UK Safer Internet Centre claims the challenge is fake news, while YouTube claims it has found no recent evidence of challenges on the platform.

In fact, it seems an analysis of the challenge appears to reveal several twisted mobile users, who are not connected to each other, as actually setting up WhatsApp accounts with the Momo image, simply to help spread the craze.

Photo credit: Tech ARP.

According to Dr Shahla Ghobadi, a viral social media expert at the University of Manchester, these games capture people’s attention. While it is innovative, Dr Ghobadi says we need to stop this and direct the responsible parties to something more positive, stopping them from creating a dangerous viral game.

The Momo image was originally a sculpture created by a Japanese special effects company called Link Factory and displayed in a Tokyo fetish museum in 2016

With everyone talking about the Momo Challenge, this is not the first time Momo has risen from cyber space to prey on children.

The challenge initially gained attention in July 2018, when it was noticed by a YouTuber, ReignBot.  Targeting teenagers, people presenting themselves as “Momo” on WhatsApp messages, these strangers tried to convince people to hurt themselves. By the end of September 2018, the numbers were all out of order.

So, is the Momo Challenge a twisted hoax? Or has it become a real entity through the twisted behaviour of online users?

In the province of Quebec, Canada, local police forces of Longueuil, Sherbrooke and Gatineau have indicated that people in their jurisdiction have been approached to participate in the Momo Challenge but did not report any victims. 

The Luxembourg police confirmed one case on its territory, but no harm was caused.

The Belgian Public Prosecutor’s Office reported on 6 November 2018 that a 13-year-old boy had been the victim of the Momo Challenge and hanged himself

Whether an elaborate hoax or truth, the Momo Challenge reminds us just how dangerous the Internet can be for our children.

Has your child seen the Momo Challenge on any YouTube Kids videos? What are your thoughts on the situation? Do you believe it is a hoax or do you feel there are sinister forces at work? Share your views with us.

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