<![CDATA[The Winters Police Department issued a warning to parents on social media last week amid a concern over a viral internet sensation that has largely been debunked as a hoax. In a Facebook message last Thursday, the agency provided more background on the "Momo Challenge," an alleged viral video campaign that encouraged children and young teenagers to harm other people or themselves. The Momo Challenge has existed for years and pops up randomly on social media, often achieving viral status among worried parents who have good intentions in warning others about harmful videos their children may come across on popular websites like YouTube. The latest incarnation of the viral campaign allegedly involved a character franchised from a Japanese sculpture that is inserted randomly into cartoons and other shows aimed at young people online. In some cases, the character, known as "Momo," appears on popular messaging services like WhatsApp. The character allegedly encourages children to perform various harmful activities as part of a "suicide game," in some cases using subliminal messaging and imagery. The Momo Challenge started going viral weeks ago after an Argentinian newspaper claimed an adolescent girl committed suicide in an unusual incident that may have been the result of someone contacting the preteen through her phone. At some point, social media users began connecting the preteen's suicide to "Momo," and the reports spread throughout the world, prompting warnings from schools, law enforcement agencies and even the news media. Some of those news reports may have offered credibility to those rumors: Last week, CBS Sacramento aired a report featuring a Folsom parent who claimed her daughter nearly caused an explosion in her home after watching videos containing “Momo.” It didn’t take long for worries over “Momo” to reach Winters. In a popular community Facebook group, a concerned resident shared a post warning parents about “Momo” popping up in YouTube videos that encouraged children to “cut themselves” and “take pills,” among other things. That caught the attention of Winters Police who issued a follow-up warning of their own explaining what the Momo Challenge was based on their own research of news stories. The agency said none of the warnings appearing on Facebook and other social media sites showed the actual videos that were part of the challenge, instead relying on second-hand reports and screenshots of the character from the Japanese sculpture. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10156591052544213&id=95187319212 “Reports of the Momo challenge are following other internet viral trends,” the police department wrote. “After being widely reported on social media and reported in the news, some people have decided to use the phenomena to intentionally upset people by creating and uploading new content. Several investigations into the phenomena have been started on an international level as law enforcement investigate allegations that the challenge has been linked to suicides, however, no direct links have been confirmed.” Direct links may be hard to find because the “Momo Challenge” is not real: Journalists who have tried to research the trend have not been able to corroborate any of the claims made by parents or less-credible news outlets about “Momo.” YouTube says it has not seen any evidence of “Momo” on their platform. News stories, like the one on CBS Sacramento, largely relied on anecdotal evidence without any proof. In Winters, the police department confirmed it had not received any “local reports…from parents or others regarding children in Winters being impacted by the ‘Momo Challenge.'” “Because of the viral nature of the challenge which advocates self harm and violence, we researched the challenge and posted our findings in an effort to give parents information if they come across mentions of the challenge,” the agency said. In an email to the Express, Winters Police Chief John Miller said the viral story served as a teachable moment for parents to “be aware and monitor their children’s activities.” “Regardless of the validity of the “Momo Challenge,” there are certainly other very real threats to children online,” Miller said.]]>
Winters Police issue warning over viral "Momo Challenge"
A post made in a community Facebook group about the “Momo Challenge” hoax prompted a note from the Winters Police Department.