The truth behind Momo and the 'Momo challenge': Is it all a hoax?

Warning: This article contains graphic images and references to suicide.

The recent resurgence of a terrifying viral image has sparked horror and scores of rumours - but how much of it is true?

One rumour focused on the existence of something called the "Momo challenge", with the creature itself named 'Momo'; a name it is now known by worldwide.

The supposed 'Momo challenge' takes the form of a video, encouraging young children to take part in a series of tasks. According to widespread reports, the final task encourages children to kill themselves.

It's even prompted reality star and mother-of-three Kim Kardashian to issue a heartwrenching plea for YouTube to step in.

"Please monitor what your kids are watching!!!" she wrote on her Instagram story.

The existence of the 'Momo challenge' has since been debunked by multiple media outlets including legend-busting Snopes and The Guardian.

YouTube has also been forced to issue a statement denying the existence of the 'Momo challenge'.

"We've seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube," the company said on Twitter.

"Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are against our policies."

Rumours of the Momo challenge included that it was responsible for the deaths of a girl in Buenos Aires and a pair of girls in Russia. None of these have been conclusively linked to Momo.

But the creepy character is still lurking on the web - and parents should still be wary.

While there is no evidence of a challenge encouraging children to kill themselves has ever existed, there is video showing Momo popping up unexpectedly in apparently benign videos.

In these appearances, Momo threatens to kill the viewer and their family if they tell anyone.

Multiple parents have reported seeing this form of video - and it's prompted some amount of confusion.

These Momo videos aren't linked to the so-called 'Momo challenge', a set series of tasks culminating in committing suicide.

They also aren't linked to unproven reports of Momo texting or using Whatsapp to message children.

However the sudden appearance of the character - often colloquially known as a jumpscare - is still enough to frighten children. Combined with the threatening voice-over, it's unsurprising rumours of Momo got so out of hand.

Viral image of Momo, a creepy sculpture with bulging eyes and a large smile.
An unedited version of the Momo character. Photo credit: YouTube

Even if Momo was originally a hoax, it's likely copycat videos will have cropped up due to the extended media coverage.

"I thought she was gonna come in real life [and] kill us," one tearful New Zealand child said in a video filmed by his mother.

Because of this, Netsafe NZ is among the companies warning parents to be vigilant of what their children are watching.

"We know that it's out there and young people are seeing it, but there aren't that many reports directly of it," Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker told Newshub.

"The main thing is for parents to talk to their children that stuff like this is there and if they see it come and talk to them. So that children don't follow Momo's instructions."

YouTube has battled had other issues regarding creepy videos targeted towards children. In 2017 the trend was dubbed 'Elsagate', combining kid-friendly videos with horrific violent, sexual and other disturbing content.

In response, YouTube announced a crackdown on content that "attempts to pass as family-friendly, but is clearly not".

It's likely Momo's appearance is just the next online trend in this nasty videos - even if the Momo 'challenge' itself does not exist.

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