Many may not have heard of the "Momo Challenge," and those that have may not know whether it is real or a hoax and there is a reason for that, because the U.S. media seems to be all over the place in their coverage of this issue.
The Momo Challenge is purported to be a "game" where someone encourages young children to meet up with someone called "Momo" on WhatsApp, Facebook or YouTube for Kids, then they are sent violent messages, encouraged to harm themselves and even to commit suicide. Other versions of this story also claim that the Momo image is spliced into videos for children.
Much like stories of "Slender man," this Momo Challenge resurfaces periodically, as I found a Fox Business segment warning of how dangerous this challenge is from six months ago, the last time this went viral in the UK. As shown below, the media ran with this story, created a viral false narrative, which in turn freaked out parents so badly they were contacting schools, who then issued warnings, then law enforcement was contacted by so many scared parents that they started issuing warnings, the finally, the Department of Education even sent out a warning.
The last line from the article reporting on the DOE warning states "According to Chambers, the DOE has not received reports from any schools about injuries resulting from the challenge."
Confused yet? You are not alone, even mainstream media cannot seem to decide on whether to report this as a hoax or a real news story, even after many outlets have tried to unravel what has become a growing snowball rolling downhill and growing even bigger.
Notice what is missing from the video report above? Anybody that has actually seen the images that some claim are spliced into videos for kids, nor anyone that has been approached by the "Momo" character, just that everyone is talking about and has heard of it...... because the media made the hoax go viral.
HOW THE MEDIA MADE A HOAX GO VIRAL
In an article over at The Spec, we see exactly how it began.
On Feb. 17, a parent anonymously sent in a warning about the Momo challenge to a Facebook group for the town of Westhoughton, England. "I'm deeply alarmed I have discovered when I collected (my kid) today ... the teacher asked to talk to me. She said (my kid) had made three kids cry by telling them that 'Momo was going to go into their room at night and kill them.'" The post contained a description of the challenge and urged other parents in town to talk to their kids about bad people online.
That post soon became an article in a local paper. It was then picked up by national tabloids like the Daily Mail and Daily Star. Many of those reports focus on a particularly dark detail from the legend of the challenge: that its ultimate goal is to convince participants to kill themselves on camera. "Suicide game hits Britain," read one of the Star's headlines.
As word of the Momo challenge spread, the Mail followed up with stories advising parents on how to handle it.
As local police stations and parents began picking up on the viral warnings and issuing their own, more legitimate outlets like the BBC also jumped into the fray. And then, the warnings spread to America. A Florida news station claimed Momo was "the latest trend on social media." Kim Kardashian shared one of the posts going viral that warned about it.
So it went viral, with outlets like CBS Baltimore headlining a piece with "It’s Sickening’ | Parents React To ‘Momo Challenge’ After Police Warnings." Other headlines from numerous outlets were just as hyperbolic, as others are trying to rein in the viral nature of the story, with Nieman Journalism Lab's Laura Hazard Owen telling NPR's Scott Simon, "The story that's going around. And YouTube says that it has no evidence of these videos existing. We have no screenshots. We have no, you know, like, video clips. There's no proof that this is a real thing. It's not a real thing."
When asked if this is a hoax or some type of mass hysteria, Owen replied "I think it's a mass sort of parental panic, but it's being fueled by mainstream news organizations, which is what makes it a little different."
YouTube issued a statement saying "We want to clear something up regarding the Momo Challenge: We’ve seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube. Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are against our policies."
There are plenty of stories of parents claiming their children have seen the images, but no evidence, via images, screen shots or what-not, and YouTube hasn't had any video flagged showing any signs of it either. YouTube has demonetized any video showing the Momo image or talking about this, even if they are simply reporting on it and that it is a hoax.
Yet as you heard in the video above, the chatter among the young community is all about this "Momo Challenge," and parents are all over social media warning each other, all without any evidence, because the media told them it was real, even as cyber experts are calling it "largely an urban myth or online hoax."
So why are media outlets and cops warning parents about a trend that doesn't actually exist? This story from NBC News (the main media outlet—not some local affiliate) says police departments haven't actually had any cases, but want to warn folks because they themselves were contacted by the media. This is a great example of media people conjuring fake news.
BOTTOM LINE - THE REAL DANGER IS THE MEDIA
Now because of the media hysteria which has brought about a viral parental panic over this this massive "threat" to children, when in reality it is a hoax, copy-cats, or hackers, or even horrible bullies, can make this monstrous hoax a reality.
Just this morning I saw a story of a five year old child, so terrified after the media hysteria panicking parents, that he called 911 because he was scared of Momo. He didn't see the Momo face on an app, nor did he get any messages, no, the fear was created and fueled by the media.
The media is the real danger to children.
Sadly the U.S. media is still confusing the nation over this so we had to go to the British BBC to get a logical, straight news report over this whole issue without the media hysteria. The 'Death Spiral reference in the title comes from Jim Waterson, from The Guardian, who explains how the media's handling of the Momo Challenge coverage has sent them into a death spiral for clicks.
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