So right out of the gate, I want to reiterate the fact the Momo Challenge is a viral hoax. There was never a legitimate threat that a weird, bird-looking monster is going to trick children into killing themselves. It was horsesh*t. However, now there’s an actual form of danger from the Momo Challenge, and it’s all thanks to an irresponsible media panic.
I’ll let The Guardian’s Jim Waterson explain:
A lot of this relies on people believing their local school or police force knows what they’re talking about when it comes to the internet. Unfortunately most don’t have a clue and are sending letters to parents warning of non-existent issues like YouTube videos being “hacked”.— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) February 28, 2019
You see, while the Momo Challenge itself is a hoax, the disturbing-as-all-hell image clearly exists, and it is currently bouncing around YouTube and social media at a stupid rate. So it’s very hard to tell parents, and especially children, that there’s nothing to fear when all it takes is the wrong click, a glance at the recommend video sidebar, or some shitty kid on the bus, to see a photograph of a very life-like sculpture that’s pure nightmare fuel.
Momo is in the ether now. Talk of it is buzzing around schools, and even though we put up a good front about being media savvy, Parental Pajibans are grappling with how to handle the issue with our kids as we hear cruel tales of Momo becoming the Bloody Mary for the digital age. (My heart especially goes out to the poor religious kids who have been taught that Satanic forces are very real. There’s nothing like staying awake all night because someone in your Sunday school class said a demon once touched his foot while he was sleeping as your teacher goes, “Yup, uh huh. That happens.” Talk about a very chill and incredible time that hasn’t left life-long scars. Haha!)
Fortunately, this Momo business hit as YouTube is facing intense scrutiny and an advertiser exodus after a child predator ring was found hiding in plain sight on the platform and actual instructions to commit suicide were discovered in YouTube Kids videos. So it behooves the company to at least try and look like it has a handle on the Momo wildfire, and demonetizing content is a pretty good place to start.
From The Verge:
YouTube isn’t running ads on videos about the recent Momo Challenge resurgence, even those coming from respected news organizations and popular creator commentators.
Multiple news organizations including CBS, ABC, CNN, Fox, and local affiliate channels have uploaded segments on Momo — a viral hoax about a creepy sculpture by Keisuke Aisawa that’s alleged to promote self-harm. These videos aren’t monetized, and some have warning windows alerting viewers to disturbing content.
Of course, it should be noted that YouTube also had a hand in spreading the Momo panic even though its existing advertising guidelines should’ve curbed Momo’s viral reach.
The latest resurgence of the Momo hoax is based on alleged YouTube videos that had images of Momo telling kids to hurt themselves. YouTube has publicly commented on the situation, tweeting that no one at the company has seen “recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube,” and reiterating that “videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are against our policies.”
YouTube also has even stricter guidelines on where advertising can appear, so as to shield brands from appearing beside more controversial content. Videos that specifically focus on “content that features or focuses on sensitive topics or events,” such as the Momo Challenge, aren’t considered to be advertiser friendly. YouTube says that even if this content is “presented for news or documentary purposes,” it may not be considered suitable. Given that the Momo Challenge touches on suicide, it may not be eligible for ads.
In the meantime, a recent blog post has detailed YouTube’s new aggressive actions on harmful content that, honestly, should’ve been in place and fully enforced ages ago. So whether this latest crackdown will make a difference is anyone’s guess. As we speak, a goddamn suicide-bird is shitting nightmares into children’s eyes, so I’m not exactly brimming with optimism over here.
Header Image Source: YouTube