Like other sinister internet challenges such as the Blue Whale Challenge and the Slenderman Challenge, the new Momo Challenge urges young users to commit acts of violence and even suicide. The challenge started on the WhatsApp messenger, but has since spread its way across the internet. It consists of an image created by a Japanese artist and posted on Instagram. The challenge contacts a user and threatens to appear to him or her or put a curse on the user if the user does not respond. This challenge prompts children and teens to commit a series of violent challenges that ultimately ends in suicide. The challenge has already been linked to the suicide of a 12-year old girl in Argentina.
The challenge has now spread to the widely popular Minecraft game, whose creator Mojang is owned by tech giant Microsoft. There is a mod in the game that features the character of Momo chasing other Minecraft avatars with a cellphone bearing the WhatsApp logo. A mod is part of a video game created by a user, not the gaming company itself. The mod is a Minecraft-looking version of Momo, which is an image of a scary woman with exaggerated features.
In addition to showing up in the Minecraft game, the Momo mod has also appeared in YouTube ads for Minecraft. Authorities and Microsoft are worried that these images may lead Minecraft fans to further research the Momo challenge and get caught up in the creepy phenomenon.
Despite the freedom allowed in the gaming world of Minecraft, Microsoft has elected to take action. Users are generally able to guide the direction of the game and help construct the world, but Microsoft says that the Momo avatar goes beyond their intentions with the game. Minecraft is widely played by children and teens, both of which are targeted by the Momo challenge.
Microsoft is now working to remove the mod from the game. This may be easier said than done though, as the nature of the Minecraft game involves user creation. Microsoft has only stated that they plan to fix the game so that users are no longer allowed to access the Momo mod, but they have not yet outlined how they will achieve this feat.
Authorities are urging parents to monitor their children’s online activities and to warn their children about the Momo challenge and its appearance in Minecraft. Parents are being told to tell their children not to get involved in the challenge in any way, including research.