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What Is the Momo Challenge and Why Is Everyone Losing Their Damn Minds About It?

By Mike Redmond | Social Media | February 28, 2019 |

By Mike Redmond | Social Media | February 28, 2019 |


First off, do you like how I used a header image that isn’t a whacked out bird creature thing? You’re welcome. See how easy that was?

If you’re joining me down in the digital muck, then you’re presumably aware of something called the “Momo Challenge,” which eagle-eyed readers might remember Jodi covering back in August. Long story short, the challenge was reportedly a chain mail-esque, interactive video that supposedly caused a 12-year-old girl to commit suicide in Argentina, which prompted police departments around the globe to warn parents about the potential threat. However, a link between the girl’s suicide and the Momo Challenge was never proved, and by September, cooler heads were labeling the whole thing an urban myth that was blown way out of proportion.

From the Washington Post:

“The Momo thing is much more akin to an urban legend right now,” said ReignBot, a YouTuber famous for videos exploring creepy things on the Internet. ReignBot’s video about the “Momo Challenge” has more than 2 million views.

“People are claiming what Momo is and what Momo does, but not that many people have actually interacted with the account,” she said. “Finding screenshots of interactions with Momo is nearly impossible and you’d think there’d be more for such a supposedly widespread thing.”

Larry Magid, a technology reporter, also tweeted that the game is “likely a hoax.”

So if the Momo Challenge was settled back in September, why the hell is it popping back up again? According to Rolling Stone, a Facebook post from the Northern Ireland police department sparked the recent panic, and they’re already trying to put some of that toothpaste back in the tube. Turns out, losing your goddamn minds over these things before thoroughly vetting them was the real danger all along.

From Andy Robertson’s excellent Forbes article, which I highly recommend reading and passing along to concerned parents and/or educators:

Carmel Glassbrook, manager of Professionals Online Safety Helpline, told me they have received calls on the topic of Momo, from schools and local authorities and police. “The main problem”, she said, “was not the phenomenon itself but that professionals and parents were sharing Facebook posts about Momo without checking on its validity. It has become a viral topic, founded more on scaremongering headlines than well-researched facts.”

As of this writing, I’ve already received an email from my daughter’s school warning parents about the Momo Challenge, and hours later, the local paper shared the story on Facebook. None of its reporting mentioned the challenge is viewed by experts as a viral hoax, which naturally led to even more freaking out in the comments. And, honestly, who can blame them? The newspaper is showing them a photograph of a jacked-up bird-monster and telling them it’s going to come through the internet and make their kids kill themselves. (A few old ladies were ready to bust out crucifixes.) Meanwhile, the panic is causing Momo content to be generated at an exponential rate, and now, the image is everywhere you turn. So of course, parents aren’t going to think twice about headlines telling them that MurderBird is hiding inside Peppa Pig, Fortnite, and whatever the hell else we use to pacify our kids so we can hear our own thoughts for five minutes.

But on a positive note, while it’s not a legitimate threat — unlike, say, a child predator ring and actual suicide instructions making it into YouTube Kids videos — the Momo Challenge has been a wake-up call for parents about letting their spawn have unfettered access to the internet. For God’s sake, the whole thing practically runs on porn. Just porn as far the eye can see. What were we thinking?

It used to be a slam for my generation to say we were raised by television. Looking back after today, that shit was Mary Poppins, y’all.

Additional Resources: Jim Waterson, The Atlantic