Momo Challenge is a hoax

Posted on March 5, 2019

 

If you haven’t heard of ‘Momo’ or ‘The Momo Challenge’, you’ve probably been living under a rock for the last few months. While most people in the UK will have heard of it, knowledge of what it ‘actually is’ will be sparse due to the misinformation spread across social media, playgrounds, parent groups and, sadly, our own press and TV.

What is the Momo Challenge? In short, it’s a hoax. It’s what Donald Trump may brand ‘Fake News’. It never existed, and is a sad example of how an internet hoax can be spread far and wide with no understanding of the reality, and how our supposed ‘responsible’ media aids in the spread of lies because it sells newspapers, rather than bother to investigate the truth.

For any parents reading this, or anyone concerned. It is not true. It is made up. It is completely, 100% fabricated nonsense.

Here’s a video about other such nonsense you may have seen. Momo fits right into this category.

So what was Momo supposed to be?

If you believe the likes of the BBC, The Sun and various other news sites that all reported Momo as real, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Momo was a suicide pact game targeting children.

Nasty, eh?

Momo was a horrific-looking woman who would appear during children’s videos on YouTube and tell children to do things to themselves, such as self-harm. She also appeared on WhatsApp and gave children horrible things to do, forcing them not to tell any adults.

It’s all really sick, and had the UK’s press up in arms that YouTube and WhatsApp had been hacked, and our children were being told to kill themselves.

Many children commented how they had heard of someone who had seen it, and parents would share stories of someone whose child had seen it. Rumours of children in other countries killing themselves started to circulate, and the press reported it as though it were true – even citing children who had reportedly harmed themselves after seeing it.

Yet nobody had actually seen it with their own eyes. Funny that.

Rather than investigate the source of Momo, the press printed rumours and hearsay. This was more exciting to run as a story, as it preyed on people’s fears. It was also complete hogwash, but because our ‘trusted’ media was reporting it, it must have been true.

This gave it the credibility it required to be believed and shared by everyone else. Schools started issuing warnings to parents, parents posted on social media how they should all be ‘vigilant’ and children were finding their unsupervised YouTube time removed.

Again, remember it’s all a hoax.

The horrid Momo woman who ‘appears’ in the videos and on WhatsApp (she doesn’t, by the way) is actually a sculpture by a Japanese artist, named Keisuke Aiso. The sculpture is called ‘Mother Bird’ and was created in 2016.

It’s also nothing to do with any suicide pact game. It has created a lot of publicity for the artist, who has been the subject of interviews and news stories from media all over the world since this happened.

There is also some good to come out of this for children. With parents now ‘being vigilant’ about their children’s social media activity, it means real threats that children face over social media are less likely to affect them. Children shouldn’t be sat down with an iPad and YouTube and left to entertain themselves – the sorts of videos that are on YouTube are not all suitable for children. Some contain adult language, themes, nudity and even some quite dangerous stunts. If parents are now taking an interest (or being vigilant, as they call it) in their children’s social media, it can only be a good thing.

Then, of course, there’s the self-fulfilling prophecy aspect. A phrase that has been attributed to a number of different people (with no real certainty of who said it, which in itself is ironic) is:

“If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth”

Or, as Michael Jackson once sang in ‘Billie Jean’:

“And be careful of what you do ’cause the lie becomes the truth”

What has happened now is that videos are starting to appear with Momo inserted into them. People are creating them as jokes, satire or perhaps to try and convince people that the whole thing was real all along – which it wasn’t.

The creation of such videos could cause a second wave of people panicking and sharing misinformation over social media, believing it to be real all along. It isn’t.

So what has this all taught us?

Four important points we can learn from this whole episode are:

  • The press, including news outlets in the UK and the USA, is more interested in scaremongering than reporting the truth
  • Nobody understands the word ‘hacking’
  • Schools really shouldn’t be advising parents on social media – neither understands it
  • Children shouldn’t be given unrestricted access to YouTube, or the internet as a whole, regardless of suicide-pact hoaxes ,as there actually bad things out there and parents really should be responsible anyway

Momo may have been a hoax, but the issues it has highlighted are very real.

Darren Jamieson

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 15 years’ experience in these fields.

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