A new game slowly spreading through WhatsApp, allegedly driving teens to commit suicide. Called the ‘Momo Challenge’, the game involves receiving a creepy sculpture’s image along with instructions to display extreme behaviour in the form of a challenge. According to a report in Buenos Aires Times, a 12-year-old Argentinian girl was found hanging from a tree in her family’s backyard, after which the police investigated the WhatsApp conversations on her phone that linked her apparent suicide to the Momo challenge.
What is Momo Challenge?
Momo is the name of a social media account with a presence on networks such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and YouTube. The culprit sets objectives for users by gaining access to personal information and also sets personal challenges for the victims. On each step, the victim is asked to film their activities. In the end, the victim is asked either to stream their suicide online or is asked to film their suicide while the culprit records the video remotely.
— gayushka (@BoomRainy) August 6, 2018
Created by Japanese artist Midori Hayashi, the sculpture is named “Mother Bird”, however, neither the horror art nor its creator is related to the game.
According to a few reports, Momo challenge may be a phishing tool used by cybercriminals to extract personal information of victims. However, many European countries have issued an advisory to parents regarding the circulation of potentially dangerous WhatsApp forwards. The National Police of Spain has also issued an advisory regarding the suicide game.
Regarding all the news going around about MoMo, Rodrigo Nejm of Brazil’s NGO Safernet said it’s unclear how widespread the game is but claimed it was most likely a form of “bait” used by criminals to steal data and extort people on the internet. #momowhatsapp
— Nicole (@Digital_Coley) August 3, 2018
The Momo challenge seems to be inspired by the infamous Blue Whale challenge that led to several suspected cases of suicide all over the world in 2016 and 2017. In India, the Ministry of Information Technology requested several internet companies to remove the links to the game. However, after a full investigation, the government reported that no cases of child suicides could be linked to the Blue Whale game.
Both the Blue Whale challenge and Momo challenge originated in Japan before spreading to other countries online.