Over the last week, everyone has been buzzing about something called the Momo Challenge. The “challenge” involves an incredibly creepy face that appears on your screen and tells you to do horrible things, largely targeting children.
The story started trending when Wanda Maximoff shared a post to Twitter warning parents about the creepy challenge that was targeting kids.
“Warning! Please read, this is real,” she wrote. “There is a thing called ‘Momo’ that’s instructing kids to kill themselves.”
Maximoff’s tweet has since been shared over 30,000 times. A different post on Facebook by Amyre Shonny was re-shared by Kim Kardashian, and the story became a viral sensation.
Supposedly, people reported seeing Momo on YouTube and YouTube Kids, on videos about the game Fornite, as well as shows like Peppa Pig.
Naturally, this sent parents into a panic. Rumors included kids being told to kill themselves and harm their parents, among other terrible things. Naturally, this would terrify children and adults.
There was also concern that hackers were behind it, getting into popular YouTube videos to scare kids, cause mayhem, and some believed, to steal information.
But is there any truth to it? According to several sources, including The Atlantic, it’s nothing more than a hoax that spread like wildfire due to media outlets, popular social media accounts, and rightfully terrified parents.
Sound eerily familiar? That’s because the same hoax went viral last summer when media outlets shared a story about the Momo Challenge spreading to teens on WhatsApp. The same rumors have galloped around Latin America and other Spanish-speaking countries.
Several suicides in different countries were investigated to see if they were associated with the Momo Challenge, but none of them were ever confirmed as related.
“The Momo challenge wasn’t real then, and it isn’t real now,” writes theatlantic.com.
The face associated with the Momo Challenge is actually the face of a sculpture made by Keisuke Aisawa for the Japanese special-effects company Link Factory.
Back in 2016, the creepy piece of artwork was on display at Tokyo’s horror-art Vanilla Gallery. At the moment, it’s unclear why or how that image became attached to this whole thing.
Supposedly, you can reach Momo by texting a certain number on Whatsapp. Most people don’t get a response from it, but some people have received responses that are pretty creepy and imply that Momo knows where you are, what you’re doing, etc.
Several social media influencers have tried conversing with Momo to try and get to the bottom of this whole thing.
Perhaps the most interesting conversation to date is between ReignBot, a popular account that investigates creepy trends, and Momo.
ReignBot said there are three main numbers associated with this prank – one Japanese, one Mexican, and a Columbian number. She said even the Japanese number could communicate in Spanish.
Her final consensus was that Momo is nothing more than a viral urban legend.
YouTube seems to agree that the whole thing is a hoax and nothing more. They released a statement saying they have “seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube.” Further pointing to the whole mysterious and illusive quality of this hoax.
Minutes later, they posted another Tweet asking anyone who sees “harmful or dangerous challenges on YouTube” to “flag them to us immediately.”
Additionally, YouTube has released a statement to CBS News saying the Momo Challenge is against their Community Guidelines and will be removed immediately upon being flagged.
Schools and police departments were quick to respond to the story, as a result, causing further panic amongst parents.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland released a statement on Facebook that said: “Our advice as always, is to supervise the games your kids play and be extremely mindful of the videos they are watching on YouTube.”
With so much media attention on the issue, it’s easy to see how the whole thing got blown out of proportion.
Luckily, there are no confirmed reports of children harming themselves or others due to the Momo Challenge.
The take away lesson? Momo isn’t real but threats on the Internet will always be real. It’s important to know what your kids are watching and to monitor their online activity carefully.
Momo may not be a real threat, but the Internet still is.