Momo Challenge

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The "Momo Challenge" is an alleged form of cyberbullying that spreads through social media and cell phones. After phone users are enticed to contact a user named "Momo" through social media network WhatsApp, they receive graphic threats from the user and are instructed to perform a series of dangerous tasks. Despite claims that the phenomenon was reaching worldwide proportions in July 2018, the number of actual complaints is relatively small and no police force has confirmed anyone was actually harmed.[1][2][3]

Background and reactions[edit]

The Momo Challenge gained the public's attention in July 2018, when it was noticed by the popular YouTuber ReignBot.[4] Targeting teenagers, people presenting themselves as "Momo" on WhatsApp messages try to convince people to contact them through their cell phone. Similarly to other "challenges" internet phenomena such as Blue Whale, players are then instructed to perform a succession of tasks, refusal to do so being met by threats. Messages are subsequently accompanied by frightening or gory pictures.[1][2][3][5]

Although authorities have not confirmed any physical harm directly caused by this "challenge", police forces on several continents have issued warnings about the Momo challenge and repeated common advice about internet safety. WhatsApp is encouraging its users to block phone numbers engaging in this practice and to report them to the company.[1][2]

Commenting the numerous rumours of suicide related to the Momo Challenge, Web security experts stated that the phenomenon is likely a sensationalised hoax fueled by unverified media reports. In September, most phone numbers associated with "Momo" were out of service.[6][7][8][9]

Spread[edit]

Argentina[edit]

Despite several media reports tentatively establishing a relationship between the Momo Challenge and the suicide of a 12-year-old girl from Ingeniero Maschwitz, no link has been confirmed by authorities.[1][3][5][10]

Brazil[edit]

Authorities in Brazil have not confirmed any case linked to the Momo Challenge. The national SaferNet non-profit organization has been approached by concerned parents and warned that this is only one of a variety of schemes to extort money and information from people.[11]

Canada[edit]

In the province of Quebec, local police forces of Longueuil, Sherbrooke and Gatineau have indicated that people in their jurisdiction have been in contact with the Momo Challenge, but no victim. They are asking people not to use the phone number provided in the WhatsApp messages and to send screen capture images of their phone to police authorities. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other police forces say they are monitoring the spread of the phenomenon, but could not confirm any actual victim.[12][13][14]

Colombia[edit]

The police have not confirmed news reports linking the death of two youths in Barbosa to the Momo Challenge in early September.[15]

Europe[edit]

In France, a group at the State Department was reviewing the situation daily in late July, 2018.[16] A complaint was filed in November by a father who's son committed suicide[17]

In Germany, the police were only aware of mentions made in chain letters. They are asking the population to act prudently when faced with that kind of cell phone contacts.[18]

The Luxembourg police confirmed one case on its territory, but no harm.[19]

The Belgian Public Prosecutor's Office reported on 6 November 2018 that a 13-year-old boy had been the victim of the "Momo Challenge" and hanged himself.[20][better source needed]

India[edit]

On August 29, 2018, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in West Bengal indicated that claims reported in the media about the death of two teens were linked to the Momo Challenge were "far fetched and devoid of any evidence". CID believes most of the large volume of Momo Challenge invitations in India originate locally and pranks sent to spread panic. A CID spokesperson stated that "so far, the game has not claimed any victim, nor has anyone approached us saying they have played even the first level of it."[4]

The CID statement follows weeks of news coverage about unconfirmed cases. After being alerted by a youth who received a Momo Challenge invitation, police in West Bengal issued a warning and the cybercrime unit has opened an investigation. The Mumbai police had previously started to warn the population, although no complaints were filed.[21][22][23][24] Police has not confirmed any role the Momo Challenge might have played in the death of a class 10 girl who committed suicide after leaving a note expressing discouragement with low grades, or the suicide of an engineering student in Chennai.[25][26][27]

The Odisha Police, while issuing an advisory, is asking the media to refrain from publishing unconfirmed reports linking teen death to the Momo Challenge.[28]

Mexico[edit]

Mexican authorities investigating internet crimes distributed detailed information to parents about the methods of the scheme. They suspect it has spread through a Facebook group frequented by young people. They warned those caught in the scheme risked self-harm, hacking and extortion.[3][1]

Pakistan[edit]

Pakistan's Minister of Information Technology announced the government intends to draft legislation making it a crime to distribute both the Momo Challenge and the Blue Whale Challenge.[29][30]

Spain[edit]

Spain's National Police warned people to stay away from new "challenges" applications that pop up on WhatsApp, indicating the Momo phenomenon was in vogue among teenagers.[11]

United States[edit]

In early August 2018, various local police forces in the United States have been warning the population about the dangers of the phenomenon. Some jurisdictions have received several complaints, but no jurisdiction reported anybody being harmed.[31]

The Momo character has also appeared in the popular game Minecraft as a result of unofficial mods created by the game's users. A police officer in Ohio was concerned to see Momo in his son's copy of the game, worried about the possibility that the mod could lead to participation in the Momo Challenge. After news reports started to outline the link between the Minecraft mod and the Momo Challenge, Microsoft announced it was taking measures to "restrict access to the mod" in question.[32][33]

Picture of "Momo"[edit]

To represent "Momo", the accounts use the picture of a sculpture of an ubume produced by Keisuke Aisawa at special effects firm Link Factory.[34] The firm denies any involvement with the Momo Challenge itself. The pictures have been posted online in 2016, when the sculpture was publicly exhibited. With its bulging eyes and huge beak-like mouth, images of the sculpture can be disturbing. A close-up of the face gives the impression of a mask, or a woman with strangely distorted features.[1][3]

Early news reports stating the image was of a sculpture by Japanese artist Midori Hayashi turned out to be incorrect. Hayashi indicated that was not her piece and Internet users identified the correct source.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Dube Dwilson, Stephanie (August 6, 2018). "Momo Challenge: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy. Archived from the original on August 20, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Rogers, James (August 2, 2018). "Sinister 'Momo suicide challenge' sparks fear as it spreads on WhatsApp". Fox News. Archived from the original on August 20, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Noble, Freya (August 2, 2018). "What is Momo? Terrifying 'challenge' linked to 12-year-old's suicide". 9 News. Archived from the original on August 20, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "CID: Momo Challenge invites locally generated". The India Times. August 29, 2018. Archived from the original on August 29, 2018. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Police suspect 12-year-old girl's suicide linked to WhatsApp terror game Momo". Buenos Aires Times. July 25, 2018. Archived from the original on August 20, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  6. ^ Magid, Larry (September 21, 2018). "Dire warnings about children dying because of apps and games are a form of 'juvenoia'". Parenting for a Digital Future. Archived from the original on October 8, 2018. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  7. ^ "Achtung HOAX! Gruselige Nachrichten von Momo". Austrian Ser Internet Center (in German). July 26, 2018. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  8. ^ Audureau, William (September 18, 2018). "« Momo Challenge » sur WhatsApp : itinéraire d'une psychose collective". Le Monde (in French). Archived from the original on October 8, 2018. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  9. ^ Chiu, Allyson (September 5, 2018). "The 'Momo Challenge': A sinister threat to young people or an urban myth?". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 8, 2018. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  10. ^ a b "O que é a 'Momo do WhatsApp' e quais são os riscos que ela representa?". BBC News (Portuguese edition) (in Portuguese). July 26, 2018. Archived from the original on August 20, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  11. ^ "Le "Momo challenge" cible des jeunes à Longueuil". La Presse / Presse canadienne (in French). August 18, 2018. Archived from the original on August 18, 2018. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  12. ^ Pion, Isabelle (August 20, 2018). "Momo Challenge atteint l'Estrie". La tribune (in French). Archived from the original on August 20, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  13. ^ "Gatineau police, experts warn about 'Momo Challenge'". CBC News. August 20, 2018. Archived from the original on August 20, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  14. ^ Warren, Steve (September 4, 2018). "Sinister 'Momo' Online Game Linked to Children's Suicides in Colombia". CBN News. Archived from the original on September 4, 2018. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  15. ^ de Fournas, Marie (August 20, 2018). "Quels sont les véritables risques qui entourent le "Momo Challenge"?". 20 Minutes (in French). Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  16. ^ "« Momo challenge » : un père porte plainte contre YouTube, WhatsApp et l'Etat". Le Monde.fr (in French). Retrieved 2018-11-08.
  17. ^ Rohlefer, Franz (August 18, 2018). ""Momo"-Challenge bei WhatsApp: Polizei warnt vor Selbstmord-Spiel". Merkur (in German). Archived from the original on August 20, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  18. ^ "Le "Momo Challenge" est arrivé au Luxembourg". Le Quotidien (in French). August 18, 2018. Archived from the original on August 18, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  19. ^ "Momo Challenge": Kein Fall in Luxemburg. Luxemburger Wort, 6. November 2018.
  20. ^ Ghosh, Dwaypayan (August 23, 2018). "Cop alert against Momo Challenge". The Times of India. Archived from the original on August 23, 2018. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  21. ^ "Jalpaiguri college girl invited to play virtual suicide game Momo Challenge, files police complaint". Hindustan Times. August 22, 2018. Archived from the original on August 23, 2018. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  22. ^ "West Bengal Girl Gets Call For New Suicide Game "Momo Challenge"". Press Trust of India. August 22, 2018. Archived from the original on August 23, 2018. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  23. ^ "Say No No to MoMo: Mumbai Police issues warning against deadly Momo Challenge". The Indian Express. August 19, 2018. Archived from the original on August 23, 2018. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  24. ^ "Momo challenge claims first life in India, Class 10 student commits suicide in Ajmer". Mirror Now News. August 21, 2018. Archived from the original on August 22, 2018. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  25. ^ "Engineering student commits suicide, was playing 'Momo Challenge'". The Statesman. September 1, 2018. Archived from the original on September 5, 2018. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  26. ^ Patnaik, Devbrat (September 5, 2018). "Momo Challenge: Family Blames Momo After Youth Commits Suicide". OdishaTV. Archived from the original on September 5, 2018. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  27. ^ "Odisha Police issues advisory on deadly 'Momo Challenge' game". The Statesman. September 5, 2018. Archived from the original on September 5, 2018. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  28. ^ "Pakistan says no space for Blue Whale, Momo challenge". Pakistan Today. September 2, 2018. Archived from the original on September 5, 2018. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  29. ^ "Blue Whale and Momo challenge banned in Pakistan". The Tribune. September 2, 2018. Archived from the original on September 5, 2018. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  30. ^ Nguyen, Em (August 6, 2018). "Warning to local parents about "Momo Suicide Challenge"". Fox News Illinois. Archived from the original on August 20, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  31. ^ Webb, Sam (August 17, 2018). "Sick WhatsApp 'Momo suicide game' spreads throughout the internet". Fox News. Archived from the original on August 20, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  32. ^ Rogers, James (July 18, 2018). "Microsoft clamps down on sick 'Momo suicide game' in 'Minecraft'". Fox News. Archived from the original on August 20, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  33. ^ Vanilla Gallery (15 July 2018). "MOTHER-BIRD by #LinkFactory/#KeisukeAisawa (2016, On Display at @vanillagallery_jp) #BetweenMirrors". Instagram (in English and Japanese). Retrieved 4 September 2018. LINK FACTORY謹製姑獲鳥と一緒に写真を撮ろう!こちらの作品は攝影可能です!! とびっきりのスマイルでハイ、チーズ!