What is the "Momo challenge" that even concerns parliamentarians?

Morbid challenge of social networks or urban legend? The Momo Challenge questions, even within the ranks of the Assembly. Decryption.

On the eve of the start of the school year, the MP The Republic in Progress (LREM), Gabriel Attal, wanted to raise the alarm about what he sees as a "phenomenon transmitted by social networks." In a question that was addressed to the Minister of Home Affairs on Thursday, spokesman LREM called on the "Momo Challenge", a practice that, according to him, "puts the youngest person under psychological pressure and puts them at risk by forcing them to do more and more. dangerous challenges ". With BFMTV, the elected official claims that he was warned by a family in his ride of which the son would have participated in this mysterious game.

The Express goes back on the thread of this phenomenon of cyber bullying, whose range is difficult to estimate and whose mechanisms are difficult to specify: we finally know very little, due to lack of evidence.

"The story started in a Facebook group"

The term "Momo challenge" is already mentioned on 11 July in a video (seen by more than 2 million people) from the youtubeuse ReignBoy.

She tells about her discovery, after returning to the app WhatsApp a phone number on Facebook. The profile of a frightening creature then appears as "Momo". Several Internet users who tried to get in touch with this account would have received insults and disturbing images in exchange, explains youtube usage.

The next day, in a notice of prevention, warns the unit for investigation into the cybercrime of the state of Tabasco, in Mexico, for this "new game becomes viral".

The police describe the same scene, with photo's: "On social networks the image of a terrifying woman circulates, she calls herself" Momo "and invites those who see her writing by WhatsApp".

The Mexican cyber researchers also provide information about the origin of this "game". "The story started in a Facebook group where members were challenged to establish communication with an unknown number." This number is assigned to a certain "Momo", which "reacts with violent and aggressive images". For some internet users it would have gone further. Some claim threats and personal information & # 39; to have received them, says the police. They fear that "criminals" can use this prejudice to "steal personal information," "commit suicide," or "extort money."

Who is Momo?

To date, no identity has been linked to this "Momo" and the first number associated with it has not been active since 11 July, noted different media. Only the image used by the user can be traced. This photo of a brunette with bulging eyes, an emaciated face and a distorted smile comes from an Instagram account. It is actually a work of art, photographed during his exhibition in a Japanese museum in 2016.

Authorities in the different countries involved in this phenomenon believe that many internet users hide behind the profiles that display this image in avatar. Some would have assumed the role of "Momo" to have fun with their friends, for others the motives are vaguer. Several phone numbers that are linked to these accounts have codes in Japan, Mexico or Colombia, thinks the Argentinian news site El ciudadano.

A suicide linked to the "Momo challenge"?

The revelations of the research unit on Mexican cybercrime are worrying … but what are they based on? When on July 12th a surfer interrogates this police cell about the number of listed victims, their answer to Twitter without a call is "None".

Two weeks later, July 25, new mention of the "Momo Challenge". This time the facts are described by the Buenos Aires Times are dramatic. According to the Argentine daily newspaper, an investigation was opened after the suicide of a 12-year-old girl. The researchers, who had access to his conversations about WhatsApp, feared that Selene had to hang himself by an 18-year-old internet user with whom she was in contact.

The last – who has not yet found it – could have told him to use his phone to shoot a video of his last moments, to tell him his steps, also tells the local newspaper Diario popular. According to police officers interviewed by the paper, the young victim may "publish this video on social networks to address one of the challenges of this Momo challenge".

Should we see the first death associated with this enigmatic "game" in this suicide? The Argentine researchers are very cautious and prefer different tracks: the autopsy of the girl revealed that she had suffered sexual abuse, reveals the newspaper from July 26 Diario jornada.

A series of messages in Germany

A few days later another suicide among teenagers in Argentina intervenes in the city of Zapala. Very quickly the local media get excited, claiming that it is related to the "Momo Challenge" … before they kick back. But the subject of this "challenge" is now a viral media object. However, it is difficult to find data and the accuracy of the few screenshots of existing screens – which record conversations with a person claiming to be a "Momo" – can not be confirmed.

There are, however, several reports. At the end of July, still in Argentina, a father from the province of Neuquen ensures that his 15-year-old daughter was contacted by a certain "Momo", writes Diario popular. The teenager reportedly received death threats and specific information from members of her environment, along with photos from deceased people. The findings of the research have so far not been made public.

In Germany, a journalist also insured on a television that her daughter was confronted with this "challenge". "She got a very scary series of messages about WhatsApp," said Eva Grünbauer on August 21st. This "Momo" would compel the recipients of these writings to send them to "15 contacts", on pain of dying, as reported by the German site Merkur.

"We need to talk about it so that parents keep in mind that it exists"

So what to do? In several countries, such as France, Canada or Luxembourg, the authorities say that they have taken up the problem without receiving a report. Two police forces in France, contacted by L & # 39; Express, confirm that they are ready on this subject, but assure one of them: "We have not received any complaints about facts about this phenomenon at the moment." No report on the Pharos platform, to mention suspicious content, whether to register. "However, we need to talk about it so that parents keep in mind that it exists and we will carry out awareness campaigns right from the start," said one of the police.

On the site of 20 minutes, the Ministry of Interior also confirmed that if "the phenomenon has not spread across the territory", it is still "taken seriously" by its services.

The Spanish police broke a tweet of prevention on July 19 and wondered if it was a "joke" of a "cybercriminal attack".

In Luxembourg "the phenomenon has come", also pay attention to the authorities. To his knowledge, however, only one case was reported, but "there was no complaint and there was no accident," said a spokesperson for the police of the Grand Duchy at RTL.

Block numbers

The direction of the WhatsApp messages, the protagonist of this "Momo game", did not hesitate to respond. Fox News, one of its spokespersons, told the potential victims of this phenomenon that "it is easy to block every phone number on WhatsApp". "We also encourage users to report problematic messages," he adds.

Since the coverage in the media, some experts of the "Momo challenge" compare it with another phenomenon that is as viral as morbid, the "Blue Whale Challenge". This Russian-born challenge, surrounded by many rumors, had not caused any casualties in France, but had attracted wide attention from the authorities.

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