Author's note: This article is part of a multi-part series on internet hoaxes, and media literacy.
Fear has been spreading throughout communities many after a viral media hoax has gained traction.
The “Momo Challenge” is the latest hoax spreading fear and panic among parents and their children.
It is alleged that the “Momo Challenge” appears in videos targeted to children on Youtube and encourages them to perform dangerous tasks.
However, there has been no definitive link between this challenge and any harm befalling children. Youtube has since claimed that they have “not received any links to videos showing or promoting the Momo challenge.”
In response to the hysteria surrounding the hoax. Youtube has stated that it will not allow any Youtube Channel to make money off of the hoax, and they will allow videos from reliable sources that want to educate people rather than contribute to their fear.
Over the past year, the frightening image spread like a wildfire through many social media platforms and websites.
The image comes from a sculpture designed by Japanese artist Keisuke Aisawa, who has since destroyed the work due to the negative impact it has since had. Images of the sculpture were first shared in 2016. The statue depicts an ubume, which is a type of ghost that appears in Japanese folklore.
Momo became a popular subject on social media platform Reddit, where a subsection of the website dedicated to telling fictional horror stories grew the fears of the public when they were shared on other platforms.
Author, investigator, and media literacy expert Benjamin Radford has since referred to “The Momo Challenge” as an urban legend.
Radford has stated that the hoax has “all the hallmarks of a classic moral panic, fueled by parents' fears in wanting to know what their kids are up to. There's an inherent fear in what young people are doing with technology."
Radford is a contributor to Snopes.com, a fact-checking website dedicated to debunking false information in the media. Snopes has posted a detailed timeline of the hysteria and facts around the global “Momo” hoax.
Authorities worldwide are using this hoax as an opportunity to teach parents about the importance of monitoring their children’s social media habits.
Parents are encouraged to be proactive and have a firm grasp of what their children are doing on social media, instead of being reactive to hoaxes.