In the United Kingdom, panic against the Momo Challenge has recently rekindled, a challenge via WhatsApp aimed at children, which would lead them to suicide. But the situation has not changed: a hoax remains!

After the panic of 2018, the Momo Challenge returns to the limelight, terrorizing children and parents and bringing even schools and the police into play.

In fact, some parents say that their children have come into contact with the series of self-injurious challenges launched by a disturbing figure, Momo, while they were watching videos on YouTube apparently innocent and aimed at an infant audience. This predictably sparked the panic, with prompt reports to YouTube, alarmist proclamations from the police and extensive media coverage.

However, it seems to be a once again buffalo, magnified by the collective psychosis: the Momo Challenge, in fact, and the suicides related to it, have always been alarmist hoaxes, a disturbing meme that is actually shot, but that would never have caused any death.

However, everyone seems to prefer these days "Stay safe" and warn parents of this meme, which apparently can be used to steal users' personal data and to convey cyberbullying, putting depressed individuals at risk.

Let's briefly see the history of the Momo Challenge and analyze the panic of these days.

This disturbing thing is Momo. As you will see, in reality it is only a disturbing statue.
This disturbing thing is Momo. As you will see, in reality it is only a disturbing statue.

Momo Challenge: from an art exhibition to general hysteria

The Momo Challenge is one urban legend or CREEPYPASTA, according to which a disturbing woman named Momo, with wide eyes and her mouth stretched in an unnatural smile, would contact people through messages, vowels and images on WhatsApp. In this way, Momo would propose to his victims some disturbing challenges, in which you are obliged to participate, under penalty of death of your family members. These challenges would ultimately lead to suicide.

If the story sounds familiar to you, it is probably due to the fact that such a mortal challenge has already been mentioned about Blue Whale Challenge, due to which it was feared that several children died in 2017. You may remember that they made a service of this challenge Reservoir Dogs, whose envoys had alarmed a nonexistent case (you can find the developments of the matter in this, this e this Breaking Italy).

Needless to say, just like the Blue Whale, the Momo Challenge also contains much more myth than truth: although someone may have actually received disturbing messages signed "Momo" (but there is no confirmation), at the moment there is no suicide related to this challenge.

Mother Bird, the sculpture by Keisuka Aisawa

The images themselves of this Momo are reworkings of the photographs taken at a Japanese art exhibition, the Vanilla Gallery in Tokyo. Here, one was indeed exhibited sculpture by the Japanese artist Keisuka Aisawa, employed at the Link Factory, a company that deals with special effects. Momo is none other than Aisawa's disturbing sculpture, Mother Bird or second butacBird Mother, which would represent a disturbing hybrid between a woman and a bird typical of Japanese folklore, put on display in 2016.

In the next two years, it seems that the images of Mother Bird had given birth to an urban legend in the Spanish-speaking web: the creature being represented had a phone number and could contact people via WhatsApp! We can therefore say that the rumor of the Momo Challenge has developed precisely between 2016 and July 2018, when an image of Mother Bird was published on Reddit, duly cut to hide the bird's legs.

At that point, the interest of the Net has ignited and only the next day a video on YouTube, made by ReignBot, which discussed the legend of the phone number of this Momo, went viral. Meanwhile, the urban legend of Momo had also landed on 4chan, in the section dedicated to the paranormal.

The original post on Instagram
The original post on Instagram

The supposed suicides induced by the Momo Challenge

A few weeks later, on July 25, 2018, the Buenos Aires police announced they were investigating the suicide of a 12 year old girl, hanged herself in the backyard and with her cell phone near her: according to the agents, in fact, this tragedy could have been connected with the Momo Challenge. Surely, it seems that the police wanted to investigate the girl's latest conversations via WhatsApp, who seemed to have made a video before dying.

Shortly thereafter, in August, they were also connected to the Momo Challenge le deaths of two boys, Manish Sarki and Aditi Goyal, India, followed by a series of police complaints from people who had received the invitation to the deadly challenge. The Momo Challenge came out about it too il suicide of a twelve year old and a sixteen year old Colombian in Barbosa, who took their lives within hours of each other, causing the authorities to worry. The series of news was caught by the US newspapers, which obviously gave it great coverage, sparking general paranoia and causing suicides related to the Momo Challenge everywhere.

For example, in November 2018, in France, René Gattino, the father of Kendal, a XNUMX-year-old who committed suicide, has established that the son had not committed suicide, but was instead the victim of the Momo Challenge. In fact, according to the parents, Kendal would have been too full of life and future plans to commit suicide. In October 2018, however, it was the attempted suicide of a thirteen year old Belgian to be associate at the Momo Challenge, since it seemed that the boy wanted to film himself while taking his own life.

Rather predictably, no investigation has actually reported any link between these deaths and Momo Challengand, indeed, in the case of the XNUMX-year-old Brazilian she is investigating on the trail of sexual abuse by an XNUMX-year-old and other people. The investigations and their results remained very confidential, due to the fact that some of the suspects are minors, but it seems that the girl's suicide may have been induced by her attackers. The fact remains that the newspaper that talks about it, Diario Chaco, continues to beat on the track of the Momo Challenge (my translation thanks to DeepL):

In this sense, the possibility of being faced with a situation related to the Momo Challenge (Juego del Momo), of Japanese origin and which has already spread through social networks all over the world, has begun to deepen.

However, in 2018 the newspaper articles about the Momo Challenge were wasted; here in Italy they talked about it, for example, The messenger e Fanpage, where however the journalists had also reported the origins of the creepypasta. In the meantime, YouTube has been flooded with videos from patacchi guys who pretended to have received messages from Momo or to have called the creature, obviously gaining thousands of views.

However, after having lived its moment of celebrity, the Momo Challenge seemed to have rightly ended up by the wayside, until the last few weeks.

Don't call Momo, huh!
Don't call Momo, huh!

Panic returns: everyone on guard against the Momo Challenge!

Unexpectedly, Momo had a backfire and has returned to the crest of the media wave. It will be that it manages to make everyone take a shot even after months of knowing it, but this meme just doesn't want to die. Let's see what happened.

Early February 2019: Momo in Montana!

In the peaceful town of Lockwood, Montana, local police were contacted to investigate a case they had, oddly enough, never heard of: a boy had been contacted on WhatsApp for the Momo Challenge!

The news reports that the XNUMX-year-old would have turned to his grandparents, when Momo threatened to kill his friends (by calling them by name), if he had not completed the proposed tests. At this point, the boy's family came addressed to the authorities, who issued a warning to be on guard against this kind of challenge and to talk to their children to see if they have been contacted for the Momo Challenge.

However, if Article that deals with this story in the title defines it a trend of cyber-bullying (because if this kid was really contacted by "Momo" via WhatsApp, he was probably the victim of bullies who knew him), in the body of the text, on the other hand, there is no scruples about to give suicides for certain related to the Momo Challenge. Excellent example of journalism posed and not alarmist!

This time the culprit is Peppa Pig!
This time the culprit is Peppa Pig!

Momo level up and go to YouTube!

As WhatsApp has become boring by now, the new collective hysteria has focused on YouTube, which proves to be a great substitute for Netflix to make your children watch cartoons.

Second Articles dated February 26, 2019, "numerous testimonies" would report that some children were exposed to the Momo Challenge through some videos of Peppa Pig e Fortnite on Youtube. Here, too, Momo would have invited the young victims to perform dangerous actions, such as leave the gas openor, or to harm yourself.

The testimony of Pearl Woods

In Sacramento, a few days ago Pearl Woods, mother of XNUMX-year-old Zoey, suffering from autism, ha established that her daughter almost caused a tragic accident, due to a YouTube video containing the Momo Challenge.

Indeed, according to Woods, Zoey has exhibited strange behavior over the past few weeks. But things would get serious over the past weekend, when the girl would voluntarily left the kitchen gas opena, potentially endangering the whole family.

Zoey would have acted on the suggestion of a video on YouTube containing the Momo Challenge, which escaped the parameters set by the parents to make sure that the daughter could only see content suitable for her age. However, it should be stressed that YouTube Kids is based on a automatic control of his videos, which more than once has not proved infallible.

The testimony of Elli Spicer

Always in the wake of these "numerous testimonies", it came from Kent that di Elli Spicer, according to which his five-year-old son allegedly threatened to stab two classmates at school, probably because of the Momo Challenge.

In fact, the boy would have seen Momo up many videos on YouTube and Spicer would have noticed that after banning YouTube from his home, his son had started to behave better and that he had "more good days at school than bad". Before, however, the child would have been prone to sleep with the parents because of bad nightmareswho, according to his mother, even made him pee in bed.

Spicer's older daughter would also often see Momo on YouTube videos for children, according to a post on Facebook published by the woman, although she did not exhibit any abnormal behavior. Anyway, Spicer would have taken care to change Momo's face, so that his children were no longer afraid of him.

"We decided to restyle Momo, and now my kids find it hilarious that this stupid cunt is rocking a emoji bow with scientist Goggles!"
"We decided to restyle Momo, and now my kids find it hilarious that this stupid cunt is rocking a emoji bow with scientist Goggles!"

Lyn Dixon's testimony

Many newspapers report the testimony of Lyn Dixon, an English mother whose son, while watching an innocent YouTube video, unexpectedly came across Momo. In fact, our nice friend would have told him to go to the kitchen, to take a knife and aim it at the throat.

Lyn Dixon would have noticed that something was wrong with his son when he refused to go upstairs alone, because he had fear of the dark, or sleep alone in your bed. By investigating better, Dixon realized that his son was afraid of this Momo, whom he had seen in a videos on YouTube, being encouraged to perform dangerous acts.

However, Dixon's experience appears to date to a few months ago, according to Daily Mail, and it seems that general fear has returned after the boy recently reviewed a video with Momo. In addition, numerous other testimonies appear to have sprung up after a mother published a post about Momo in a Scottish Facebook group, after which many parents said their children had been exposed to the Challenge.

Schools and police mobilize against the Momo Challenge!

Given the recent wave of fear, in the past few days even some British state entities they rushed to warn parents of the dangers of the Momo Challenge.

First of all, a school intervened, the Haslingden Primary School, which this Tuesday warned parents of the existence of seemingly innocent YouTube videos, but which then became much darker and more violent. In addition, the school also warned of a video titled MoMo, in which a disturbing mask incited children to take dangerous actions without warning their parents.

The first announcement of a school against the Momo Challenge
The first announcement of a school against the Momo Challenge

To this announcement was also added that of Northcott School Hull, which raises the alarm about the Momo Challenge, which is allegedly hacking children's programs.

The Northcott School Hull tweet
The Northcott School Hull tweet

Predictably, the crime scene also arrived police.

Il Police Service of Northen Ireland, for example, on his Facebook page he warns users of the new “Momo Game”, which would hide in other innocent games for children. According to the PSNI, Momo would like to be downloaded by the little ones, so as to contact them via WhatsApp or other popular apps and instigate them to harm themselves.

The worried message from the Northern Ireland police
The concerned message from the Northern Irish Police

Far less alarmist and more informed was Cralgavon's PSNI post, whose social media officer realizes that the myth of the Momo Challenge is "great for a short term shock effect, but not great long term as it somewhat misses the bigger issue".

According to them, in fact, any chat contact with this Momo Challenge could simply be a strategy for steal personal information of users. Alternatively, the Momo Challenge could be combined with all situations in which online chats between kids exert strong peer pressure on group members, making them feel obliged to behave in a certain way, under penalty of social exclusion.

Note that this kind of phenomenon can also occur in role-playing games, where players can feel compelled to roam situations that actually make them feel uncomfortable, as emerged from Genderplay.

The most informed press release from a local Northern Ireland police department
The most informed communiqué from a local Northern Ireland Police Department

YouTube's answer

Now, after the panic that has led to believe that all adolescents who commit suicide are victims of the Momo Challenge (because investigating their real problems is apparently too difficult), let's see if these phantom videos "hacked by the Momo Challenge" exist.

Il Daily Dot reports YouTube's response, which is by no means surprising:

Contrary to press reports, we've not received any recent evidence of videos showing or promoting the Momo challenge on YouTube.

How then back our local youtuber Shy, YouTube has further denied the existence of "hacked" children's videos with Momo:

We want to clear something up regarding the Momo Challenge: We've seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube. Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are against our policies.

In short: no, the Momo Challenge is not spreading on YouTube and there is no conspiracy aimed at making children commit suicide. In general, the Momo Challenge is nothing more than a disturbing story, built ad hoc to scare people on the web and that has never caused any victim.

Momo is truly the least of the problems
Momo is truly the least of the problems

Fear of the unknown: why is the witch hunt unnecessary?

The Internet is a chaotic and potentially dangerous place, as we all know. In this sense, it is in no way different from real life, where children are frightened by their classmates who tell disturbing stories.

From the testimonies collected and from the checks carried out by YouTube and other experts in the sector, it seems that the Momo Challenge is in no way a danger. Not only would it not have caused anyone's suicide, but it wouldn't have been the most widespread creepypasta or disturbing content, or able to circumvent YouTube's algorithms.

In this sense, the founder of the fact checking site, David Mikkelson in a article of CNN.

Is there a prevalent, global phenomenon of Momo popping up in kids' WhatsApp accounts and YouTube videos and urging them to harm themselves or others? That claim appears to be fear-driven exaggeration lacking in supportive evidence

New material for trolls and bullies?

Of course, there is indeed the possibility that some people, whether they are anonymous online trolls or school bullies, may use this urban legend to torment its victims. Mikkelson always talks about it in his own article:

Possibly some children have come to harm because of Momo (although documentation of any such occurrences remains sketchy), and even if so, that phenomenon may primarily be a product of bullies and pranksters latching onto a handy mechanism to goad and torment vulnerable youngsters rather than an intrinsic part of a particular social media challenge.

However, the Momo Challenge alone would not be dangerous, nor would it be the first horror challenge experienced by humanity: just think of the fashion of acting three times in front of a mirror "Bloody Mary".

What really puts kids at risk of suicide are other problems, generally experienced in real life, as seen in the case of the twelve year old girl who died in Brazil and a victim of sexual violence. It is these problems that make teenagers vulnerable to content like the Momo Challenge, perhaps driven by peer pressure, as we said before. In this sense, ne parla the doctor Dawn Branley Bell, expert in cyber-psychology and online threats:

Those that are vulnerable to this type of content are likely to have other reasons behind this vulnerability.

I feel that our time and effort would be better spent concentrating on addressing the reasons behind the initial psychological vulnerability - whether that is low self-esteem, mental health issues, or environmental issues - rather than the online content.

Do you remember the episode of Supernatural dedicated to Bloody Mary?
Do you remember the episode of Supernatural dedicated to Bloody Mary?

An old modus operandi that gives parents peace of mind

The problem with the Momo Challenge is not its danger (very low in the darkest hypotheses, nothing in the most optimistic ones), because in the end this challenge scares the children thanks to Momo's disturbing face. If I had been ten, I wouldn't have slept there at night either!

However, this supposed challenge it risks making parents lose sight of the fact that they are always required to supervise what their children watch on the Internet.

Momo, in fact, is just one of the many disturbing contents on the web, and it is not even the most dangerous: the YouTube channels that are much more worrying are they promote far-right ideas. For example, the influencer Stefan Molyneux, who supports that blacks have a lower IQ than whites, as they have a smaller brain.

Getting in touch with the videos of these people, who manipulate reality without any debate and without being questioned, can be much more dangerous for children than Momo. After all, Momo appears to have killed people all over the world, so at least he is not a racist!

However, for parents the Momo Challenge is a recognizable enemy, which has a name and a face and which is linked to the old urban legends of the times before the Internet. The doctor Lisa Sugiura, computer crime professor at the University of Portsmouth, supports that the Momo Challenge is nothing more than a mirror for larks, which distracts parents from the real problems of their children:

Instead of being distracted by these hyped-up challenges, attention should be focused more on the risks children face on social media relating to cyberbullying, grooming and access to pornography.

We use the Momo Challenge to learn

After all, perhaps the Momo Challenge could be educational for parents and could warn them about the dangers their children can face.

First of all, in fact, the Momo Challenge places the emphasis on teenage suicide, which according to Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the third cause of death for people between 10 and 24 years, with about 4.600 cases per year. Definitely, a problem that parents should take into account and that has absolutely nothing to do with the Momo Challenge. It is in fact indicative that so many juvenile suicides were attributed to a creepypasta, rather than to the real problems of the children, of whom perhaps the parents were unaware.

Secondly, the Momo Challenge is useful for reminding everyone that leaving children free in front of huge platforms and with user-uploaded content, such as YouTube, without supervision is not a good idea. In fact, even applying age filters, YouTube algorithms are unlikely to skim all adult content, especially if it has been maliciously hidden.

YouTube Kidsin fact, it is not such a safe place, since over the years they have been discovered many disturbing contents disguised as harmless cartoons. Indeed, they can be found video where he incites suicide, either video in which Peppa Pig is tortured by the dentist, and more recently a series of video under which pedophiles made inappropriate comments about children (it is also mentioned in a Breaking Italy).

Consequently, rather than panicking over a creepypasta, worried parents would probably be better off being aware of how the web is used and the real causes of juvenile suicides. In the end, Momo didn't really kill anyone; indifference and ignorance, on the contrary, yes.