When Urban Legends Become Dangerous

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Filed under: Conspiracy Theories, Urban Legends

Whether or not the Momo Challenge exists, just the thought of it is perceived as dangerous. Read more about it on Snopes.com.

Viral Momo Hoax Makes Schools Across the Country Ban YouTube
by Kelly Weill
March 4, 2019

Kim Kardashian fell for a hoax last week, now schools are falling for it too.

Momo—the stringy-haired, bird-faced puppet lady taunting children—is an overhyped hoax, but no one seems to have told schools, which are banning YouTube in response.

In the so-called “Momo Challenge,” the creepy figure allegedly tells children to complete increasingly dangerous stunts, such as leaving a stove on, supposedly ending with suicide. But the videos are an urban legend, and YouTube says it has no evidence of the trend on its site aside from some obviously staged hoax videos.

Nevertheless, Florida’s Palm Beach County School District blocked YouTube for its 193,000 students last week, out of fear that children would see Momo. Stockton, California’s Lincoln Unified School District went on a similar digital lockdown Thursday. The same day, Arkansas’ Jacksonville North Pulaski School District blocked YouTube searches for “Momo” on school computers.

Palm Beach County sent a district-wide email to the principals of a hundred-plus schools on Friday, announcing a temporary YouTube ban on school computers, WPTV first reported. The email reportedly claimed students had seen Momo appear while they watched educational videos.

A modern urban legend, the Momo panic has spread through unconfirmed rumors like these. Last week, Kim Kardashian shared a post claiming Momo appeared unexpectedly in the middle of children’s videos. Conveniently, these instances never seem to be documented beyond word of mouth. One much-hyped death associated with the videos originates from an old, uncorroborated report out of Argentina.

YouTube pushed back on the claims. “We want to clear something up regarding the Momo Challenge: We’ve seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube,” the company tweeted last week. “If you see videos including harmful or dangerous challenges on YouTube, we encourage you to flag them to us immediately.”

The original Momo is already gone. The creepy image is a picture of a statue, which disintegrated last fall, its sculptor said this week. “The children can be reassured Momo is dead—she doesn’t exist and the curse is gone,” artist Keisuke Aiso said in a statement.

But other school districts across the nation took similar measures to the Palm Beach district. Read the rest of this article here.