Kim Kardashian has weighed in on the terrifying "Momo Challenge" in an effort to prevent children from harming themselves as a result of the trend, which reportedly resurfaced in recent months.
The "Momo Challenge" has been circulating the Internet and targeting kids on apps like WhatsApp, YouTube and other online social platforms. A character called Momo reportedly appears in videos and tells its young viewers to do specific tasks, which are often dangerous and can cause serious harm. Momo even threatens the children if they tell their parents or don't follow its instructions.
"Beware! This was just sent to me about what’s being inserted in YouTube Kids. Please monitor what your kids are watching,” Kim, 38, posted on her Instagram story Wednesday. “YouTube — please help!”
“There is a thing called Momo that’s instructing kids to kill themselves, turn stoves on while everyone is asleep and even threatening to kill the children if they tell their parents,” the post sent to the oldest Kardashian reads. “It doesn’t come on instantly so it’s almost as if it waits for you to leave the room then comes on in mid-show.”
Kim warned parents to monitor what their children watch in order to protect them from dangerous challenges like this one. According to YouTube, no evidence has been found of the elusive Momo but if videos are discovered, they will be removed immediately.
“We want to clear something up regarding the Momo Challenge: We’ve seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube,” a Feb. 27 statement from the company reads. “Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are against our policies.”
The streaming platform also responded to Kim's story on Instagram.
"@kimkardashian, thank you. We take these reports really seriously," YouTube posted on its Instagram story. "We're on it."
So what is the "Momo Challenge" and who is Momo?
If you’ve been on WhatsApp recently, you might have found yourself on the other end of a chat with Momo. Or maybe you saw it inserted into a video on YouTube.
According to the Internet meme database Know Your Meme, Momo is “a sculpture of a young woman with long black hair, large bulging eyes, a wide smile and bird legs.” In 2016, pictures of Momo started circulating on Instagram, starting with this one shared by Instagram user “nanaakooo” in August of that year:
Though this picture looks so realistic, it’s important to remember that Momo is actually a sculpture. This picture, shared by Instagram user “j_s_rock,” makes that more obvious and puts things into perspective:
Sculpture or not, seeing this pop up on your phone could elicit some screams, especially if you’re not expecting it. Momo has terrified countless WhatsApp users recently, but just what is it and who is behind it? Though the exact origins of Momo are unclear, several YouTube users have attempted to decipher where it may be coming from.
One video, posted by ReignBot on July 10, attempts to trace Momo’s origins back to a Facebook post.
“Most will say that this all started with a phone number posted to Facebook,” the video’s narrator begins.
“Users who originally came across this number decided to look it up and found a match on a messenger app called WhatsApp,” they continue, explaining further that those who did look it up found something unexpected. “They found this: a user going only by the name Momo, along with this wide-eyed image of a girl.”
The narrator reveals in the video that many users who have tried to contact Momo have not gotten a response, but they warn against the potential consequences that may arise if Momo does decide to respond.
“If you do [get a response from Momo], whoever is at the other end will toy with you in a number of ways,” said the narrator. “According to certain users, if you can get Momo to interact with you, you’ll most likely be met with insults, implications that this person knows your personal information, and perhaps most notably, disturbing images that I would not be able to show you here.”
In the video, the narrator goes on to say that three separate phone numbers have been attributed to Momo, with country calling codes 81 (for Japan), 52 (for Mexico), and 57 (for Colombia). According to users, the narrator says, Momo communicates in Spanish.
The narrator also discusses Momo’s use of disturbing images, which are too graphic for the narrator to show in their video. It’s unknown where these images come from, and they cannot be found using reverse image searches on Google, according to the narrator.
In the midst of all this confusion, one thing seems clear: if you don’t call Momo using one of those numbers, you won’t meet Momo. WhatsApp users who use the app for other, less frightening purposes can breathe a sigh of relief.
What also seems to be agreed upon is the fact that Momo is a sculpture. The narrator of the video acknowledges this and attributes the “artwork” to Instagram user “nanaakooo.” Still, the origin of the Momo sculpture and picture does nothing to tell us whether or not the disturbing messages that WhatsApp users are receiving from the Momo account(s) are real.
What could shed light on this question? More YouTube videos that document people’s interactions with Momo, often filmed at early hours of the morning. Take a look, and judge for yourself:
One final point to consider: according to the Buenos Aires Times, Argentinian police are investigating whether interactions with Momo had something to do with a 12-year-old girl’s suicide. The girl, found by her brother hanging from a tree in the family’s backyard, is believed to have been encouraged by someone to commit suicide, according to authorities.
“The [girl’s] phone has been hacked to find footage and WhatsApp chats, and now the alleged adolescent with whom she exchanged those messages is being sought,” said police in a statement, according to the Buenos Aires Times. “[We believe the teenager’s] intention was to upload the [girl’s suicide] video to social media as part of a challenge [sic] aimed at crediting the Momo game with causing the suicide."