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If you’ve paid attention to the news at all in the past week, you’ve likely caught wind of the Momo Challenge. According to many reports, a character by the name of Momo is encouraging children and young people on the internet to cause harm to their families and themselves in what experts have termed a “suicide game.” The character, which often takes the form of a horror-like doll with massive, bulging eyes and messy, long, jet-black hair, is said to encourage viewers to attempt stunts that could harm both them and the people they live with.
But does the Momo Challenge actually exist?
Despite sheriff’s departments across the county issuing warnings about the Momo Challenge, experts on the sort of anonymous, internet-based threat that the Momo Challenge represents say there’s no evidence the challenge is that prevalent. The widely-trusted fact-checking website Snopes, for example, claims that most stories of social media trends and challenges encouraging children to harm themselves or disappear are the result of exaggerated news reporting and parental worries — and that the Momo Challenge is just another one of the many phenomena that fall in this category.
Snopes explains that the many people — journalists, YouTube personalities, and even parents — who have explored the challenge in detail haven’t found much to prove its existence. YouTube personality ReignBot, whose audience goes to her for deep dives on the internet’s creepiest corners, has posted a video explaining why the challenge is likely yet another internet hoax. To her, if the Momo Challenge were a real concern, more screenshots of children interacting with or stumbling upon it would exist.
Although concern about the Momo Challenge has reached a fever pitch over the past week, reports of deaths linked to it — and doubts of the veracity of these claims — aren’t new. In 2018, news broke that, in Argentina, a 12-year-old girl hung herself at the behest of the Momo Challenge. However, police investigations instead connected the girl’s suicide to interactions she had with an 18-year-old over social media. That same year, four teenage suicides in India and Colombia were rumored to be connected to the challenge, even though no definitive link was found in any of the four cases.
The media has nevertheless reported fervently on the Momo Challenge and the dangers it poses. The British tabloid Daily Mail, for example, has run three stories that report on the effects the Momo Challenge is having on young children and their parents, even though little evidence exists to support any of the claims made in these stories. Even the publications that have run stories explaining that the Momo Challenge is a hoax (NBC, New York Magazine, and The Atlantic) could be perpetuating the character’s presence on social media. Snopes’ founder David Mikkelson told CNN that as more reporting on the phenomenon occurs, it’s more likely that internet trolls will put it into videos with the intent of scaring people.
If you’ve encountered the Momo Challenge anywhere, link us to some screenshots in the comments. Otherwise, we’re tempted to side with the experts — this one can be chalked up to another baseless internet viral phenomenon.