Parent, teen, or inbetween, you’ve probably heard of the Momo challenge by now.
Still, if you’re somehow uninitiated with the meme, the Momo challenge is supposedly a game that encourages kids to upload footage of themselves committing suicide to the internet, or commit other disturbing acts of violence on camera.
Allegedly, the young people in question are inspired to take part after receiving texts from the mysterious “Momo,” who contacts them on Whatsapp and can be recognised by her terrifying profile picture – a pale woman with long black hair and huge bulging eyes.
After Momo went viral yesterday for the second time, with warnings of the master manipulator being shared across social media, UK-based children’s charities The NSPCC and Samaritans have come forward to denounce Momo as a hoax.
The NSPCC say there is no evidence that Momo is an actual threat to British children, and that they have received more enquiries from the press regarding Momo than concerned parents.
The UK Safer Internet Centre has also chimed in the Momo rumours, telling the Guardian that Momo is “fake news.”
Although declaring Momo an urban legend, the NSPCC did warn that the ensuing panic caused by the meme’s newfound notority could cause real-world harm by putting vulnerable individuals at risk.
Mental health charity Samaritans echoed their statement: “These stories being highly publicised and starting a panic means vulnerable people get to know about it and that creates a risk.”
While Kat Tremlett, Harmful Content Manager at the UK Safer Internet Centre, agrees: “Even though it’s done with best intentions, publicising this issue has only piqued curiosity among young people.”
In reality Momo, or at least the image that accompanies the urban legend, is a sculpture by Japanese artist Keisuke Aiso (the piece was originally attributed to Midori Hayashi by mistake) titled ‘Mother Bird.’ Aiso is the owner of special effects firm Link Factory, with Mother Bird being based on a ubame, a Japanese folk story.
Despite the Momo challenge being blamed for the suicide of a 12-year-old girl from Argentina, there is no real evidence to link the meme to her death.