Where the so-called ‘momo challenge’ started – and why experts say it’s a hoax

2019-03-01 09:40
PHOTO: Getty Images

PHOTO: Getty Images

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What do you get when you combine a creepy mask, kids’ YouTube videos and whispers of suicides?

Global mass panic, that’s what.

The so-called momo challenge has dominated headlines for the past two days, with parents being warned of a viral ‘suicide game’ supposedly on the rise on YouTube.

As part of the challenge, children are apparently being encouraged to harm themselves after connecting with a mysterious woman with bulging eyes who has managed to hack her way into kids’ YouTube videos.

But according to The Guardian, experts have warned that the momo challenge is nothing but a “moral panic” spread by adults.

The UK Safer Internet Centre has gone as far as to call the challenge “fake news”, while YouTube has said they have found no recent evidence of challenge on the platform. 

Several newspaper articles claim the challenge had been "linked" to the deaths of 130 teenagers in Russia, but these reports have yet to be corroborated by the relevant authorities, BBC reports.

Despite the viral meltdown of the past 48 hours, this is not the first time the momo challenge, nor the grotesque figure of a woman, has reared their heads.

It first appeared in July 2016, when a YouTuber called AL3XEITOR uploaded a video in which he holds up his phone to the camera and shows his viewers the creepy image of the momo creature displayed on the screen, Mashable reports.

The Spanish vlogger claims he’s trying to contact her on WhatsApp. He sends her numerous messages and tries to call the number. Ten minutes go by – and nothing happens.

The bizarre video was AL3XEITOR’s most popular to date, and other YouTubers hopped on the band wagon to share their own ‘momo’ encounters (or lack thereof). And just like that, the monster – and a brand-new urban legend – was born.

“The internet allows urban legends to spread instantaneously,” Trevor Blank, an assistant professor at SUNY Potsdam and author of Slender Man Is Coming: Creepypasta and Contemporary Legends on the Internet, told Mashable.

“In the past, it would take many years for an urban legend to reach levels of notoriety.” 

Interestingly, the origins of the figure has been tracked down as well – it’s actually a photo of a sculpture by Japanese special-effects company Link Factory.

Pop-culture website Know Your Meme reports it’s been around since 2016.

“Even though it’s done with best intentions, publicising this issue has only piqued curiosity among young people,” said Kat Tremlett, harmful content manager at the UK Safer Internet Centre.

“It’s a myth that is perpetuated into being some kind of reality,” she said. “We almost need to stop talking about the issue for it to not be an issue any more.”

SOURCES:  The Guardian, BBC, Mashable, Know Your Meme


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