It is the most talked-about story of viral anxiety of the year blamed for suicides and violent attacks by children. Experts and charities, however, have warned that the "Momo Challenge" is just a "moral panic" spread by adults.
Warnings of the alleged Momo challenge indicate that children are being asked to kill themselves or commit violent acts after receiving news of the WhatsApp news service from users with a picture of a distorted image of women with bloated eyes.
News The Momo Challenge has attracted hundreds of thousands of shares on Facebook within 24 hours, dominating the list of British news stories ranked by number of social network interactions.
There are also allegations that the material has done so appeared in a video with Peppa Pig on YouTube content for kids.
But the Samaritans and the NSPCC rejected the allegations and said that there is no evidence Because the Momo Challenge itself did damage itself, the subsequent media hysteria could endanger endangered people by encouraging them to think about self-harm.
The British Safer Internet Center called the allegations "false news". According to YouTube, there was no evidence that videos had shown or advertised the Momo Challenge on its platform.
The NSPCC stated that there is no proven evidence that the phenomenon actually poses a threat to British children, and that they received more phone calls from members of the media than affected parents.
A Samaritan spokesman was similarly skeptical and said, "These stories are highly publicized and triggering a panic means vulnerable people learn about it and it poses a risk." They recommended that the media read their suicide reporting policy and suggested that the press "increase the risk of harm."
"We do not currently have any solid evidence in this country or beyond linking Momo to suicide," the Samaritan spokesman said. "More importantly, parents and people who work with children are focused on general online security policies."
Child safety activists say the story has spread because of legitimate concerns about the safety of online children, the sharing of unverified material with local Facebook groups. and official comments from British police and schools based on little evidence.
While some concerned citizens have rushed to issue posts warning of the risk of suicide, there are fears that they have aggravated the situation by frightening children and spreading the pictures and associating with self-harm.
"While this is with the best of intentions, the publication of this topic has only aroused curiosity among young people," said Kat Tremlett, malicious content manager at the UK Safer Internet Center.
The rumor mill seems to have created a feedback loop where reporting on the Momo challenge calls schools or police to warn about the supposed risks of the Momo challenge, which in turn has led to further warnings about the challenge.
Tremlett said she now heard from children who were threatened by the media coverage of an alleged "white concern" that did not exist before.
"It's a myth that is becoming a kind of reality," she said.
Although Momo's challenge has been circulated in various forms in social media and among schoolchildren since last year, the latest coverage seems to start with a single warning from a mother in a Facebook group for residents of Westhoughton, A small Lancashire, town was published on the outskirts of Bolton. This post, based on an anecdote she heard from her son at school, became viral before being picked up by her local newspaper and covered by outlets around the world.
The supernatural "Momo" picture, originally from a piece of art, was made for a Japanese horror show exhibition and has been circulating on the internet for several years, but last summer it was unconfirmed that teenagers were being brought to WhatsApp by embassies were to kill themselves or hurt themselves.
Many Child Safety Activists They were reluctant to utter remarks, fearing to fan the flames of history, but change their direction after seeing the sheer number of dubious stories to attract clicks on the subject.
Hundreds of separate articles have been written by British authors on this topic news sites over the last three days, which dominate the most read lists on tabloid news sites. These include explanations for concerned parents on how to protect children from the perceived risks of the challenge, and claims about the deeds children allegedly commit after seeing the pictures. Celebrities such as Stacey Solomon have weighed in and expressed their concerns, creating even more justifications for headlines.
Several police forces have issued formal warnings about the alleged risks of the Momo challenge in addition to hundreds of schools. In one example, a Hull elementary school has posted on its Facebook page a rogue allegation that clips from the Momo challenge image are "hacked into childrens programs" without any indication as to what that claim means.
A YouTube spokesperson said allegations were completely wrong: "Unlike press reports, we have not received any evidence that videos are showing or promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube. Such content would violate our policies and be removed immediately.
Several outlets, including the Mirror and many local newspapers, have also claimed that the Momo game in Russia was associated with 130 juvenile suicides without support evidence.
An identical claim was made in 2017 about a similar alleged viral suicidal delusion called the Blue Whale, which has also been linked to exactly 130 juvenile suicides in Russia. These figures come from a widely criticized report in the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Later reports indicate that not a single death can be definitively linked to the game.
"We almost have to stop talking about the problem, not to do it's a problem anymore," said Tremlett.
In the UK, Samaritans can call 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org In the United States, the lifecycle of National Suicide Prevention is 1-800-273-8255, and in Australia, Lifeline 13 11 is the 14th International Assistance Helpline. See www.befrienders.org for other international suicide helplines.