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Momo Challenge Hoax Leaves Parents Worried For Kids’ Safety

The Momo challenge, a viral hoax sweeping the internet, encourages kids to speak to “momo” via WhatsApp. Momo allegedly tells people to do dangerous things, including self-harm. Momo has also reportedly been found in YouTube videos targeted towards children, concerning parents. What is the Momo Challenge? A viral game called the Momo challenge is spreading […]

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  • The Momo challenge, a viral hoax sweeping the internet, encourages kids to speak to “momo” via WhatsApp.
  • Momo allegedly tells people to do dangerous things, including self-harm.
  • Momo has also reportedly been found in YouTube videos targeted towards children, concerning parents.

What is the Momo Challenge?

A viral game called the Momo challenge is spreading around the internet and worrying parents.

The Momo challenge, which is widely known to be a hoax, is popular among young teens and children. It involves this image, depicted below, which is known to those who participate as Momo. The Momo image is actually a statue made by a Japanese artist, and it is not known how it came to be attached to the Momo challenge.

Those who have participated claim that Momo can be reached by texting a certain number on WhatsApp. However, most people who text the rumored numbers that connect to Momo don’t actually get a response.

However, those who do say they reached Momo, claim that they receive incredibly creepy messages and photos. Momo claims to know personal information about the texter, and then encourages the texter to do dangerous activities and record themselves doing it for proof. Some of these activities can allegedly include acts of self-harm and suicide.

Popularity in July

Momo rose to popularity in July, 2018, which is when many initially deemed it a hoax. ReignBot, a YouTuber who often posts content exploring creepy trends, made a video diving into it.

In her video, she claimed that there are three numbers that people use to contact Momo. One of which was Japanese, another Mexican, and another Colombian. However, even the Japanese number, which was the most popular, could communicate in Spanish, making it very popular in Spanish-speaking countries.

ReignBot ultimately chalked Momo up to be a viral urban legend, as it is hard to find examples or screenshots of “real” interactions with Momo.

However, in August police in Argentina investigated whether or not Momo had anything to do with a 12-year-old girl’s suicide. Additionally, the deaths of two people in India, as well as the deaths of two children in Colombia were reportedly linked to Momo. However, the ties were never definitively proven in any of these cases.

BBC also reported that hackers could be behind Momo, using it to get texters’ information, but that has not been confirmed either.

Momo Allegedly Found in Children’s Content

Now, Momo is riding a second wave of popularity, as the hoax has spread, specifically on YouTube. Some have reported that clips of Momo are appearing in videos on YouTube and YouTube Kids.

The videos specifically sited appear to be episodes of Peppa Pig and Fortnite videos. The thumbnails for these videos appear to be safe, and they begin with kid-friendly content, but partway through, Momo shows up.

The images and clips can reportedly be gory, violent, and threatening, and terrify children who see them.

A Facebook post by Amyre Shonny on Tuesday went viral, and stated that parents should be “very cautious of what our child watches on YouTube and KIDS YOUTUBE.”

Facebook post by Amyre Shonny, Screenshot taken by Rogue Rocket

Other parents have shared the post, and claimed they will no longer allow their children to watch YouTube.

This follows another controversy on YouTube, where clips giving instructions as to how to commit acts of self-harm have been found in children’s videos. Right now, it is unclear if these two are related.

Schools and police departments have issued warnings about this. The Police Service of Northern Ireland said:

“Our advice as always, is to supervise the games your kids play and be extremely mindful of the videos they are watching on YouTube. Ensure that the devices they have access to are restricted to age suitable content.”

Facebook post by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Screenshot by Rogue Rocket.

Kim Kardashian also joined the conversation by posting on her Instagram story on Tuesday night asking YouTube to “please help.”

YouTube gave a statement to CBS on Tuesday, where they said they remove content related to the Momo challenge.

“Our Community Guidelines prohibit harmful and dangerous challenges, including promoting the Momo challenge, and we remove this content quickly when flagged to us.”

Even with this new wave, Momo is still a known hoax and many think that parents are overreacting now.

See What Others Are Saying: (Forbes) (CBS) (Newsweek)

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Child Influencers on YouTube Are Increasingly Promoting Junk Food, New Study Finds

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  • A new study that looked at food promotions among the top five kid influencers on YouTube in 2019 found that 94% of food featured on the channels were junk food items.
  • The study is the first-ever done regarding kid influencers and food product placement.
  • Among other influencers, the study found that Ryan Kaji of Ryan’s World has often promoted unhealthy food, sometimes without properly disclosing that the content was an ad.
  • Numerous studies have found that children are much more susceptible to advertising. According to the new report, coded advertising that blends with the show is especially effective, a practice seen in many kid influencer videos.
  • The kinds of advertising noted in the study have long been banned on children’s TV programs, and now some are calling for similar regulations on YouTube.

New Study Findings

YouTube’s top child influencers have been increasingly promoting and marketing junk food to their young viewers, according to a new study published Monday by the journal Pediatrics.

According to the authors of the study, it is the first-ever of its kind that has examined “the extent to which kid influencers include food and beverage product placements in their YouTube videos.”

To conduct the study, researchers identified the top five most-watched kid influencers in 2019, and then searched for “50 of their most-watched videos and 50 of their videos that featured food and/or drinks on the thumbnail image of the video.”

In the sample of 418 videos met the search criteria, a total of 179 —  nearly 40% — featured food or drinks, and of those products, the vast majority were unhealthy.

According to the study’s findings, 90% of all food and drink shown in the kids’ videos were unhealthy branded items like McDonald’s, followed by 4% of unhealthy unbranded items like hotdogs. Both healthy branded and unbranded food and drink composed just over 5% of all products featured.

Those numbers are particularly concerning because according to the researchers, just the 179 videos that featured food racked up 1 billion views and over 16 million impressions for those food and drink products.

Ryan’s World

The findings of the study are highly significant, especially as the videos cited come from kids who have a massive influence on the platform, like 8-year-old Ryan Kaji of Ryan’s World.

Not only is Ryan easily the largest child influencer on YouTube, he is also one of the largest creators on the platform period. According to Forbes, he was the highest-earning YouTuber in 2019, bringing in an estimated $26 million last year alone.

In addition to his nearly 27 million subscribers, according to the Pediactrics study, his videos also account for over 64% of all views on every video ever produced by the top five child influencers analyzed.

Ryan’s scope is specifically relevant when it comes to the promotion of unhealthy food. According to The New York Times, some of the brands Ryan has been paid to promote include fast-food chains like Chuck E. Cheese, Lunchables, Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr., and others.

For example, both The Times and the Pediatrics study noted that one of his most popular videos shows him pretending to be a cashier at McDonald’s. In it, he wears a hat with the McDonald’s logo, serves plastic McDonald’s products to one of his toys, and then eats a McDonald’s Happy Meal. That video alone has been viewed nearly 95 million times.

Notably, Ryan’s World has been accused of not properly disclosing sponsorships in the past– including fast-food ads. Just last year, several senators accused the channel of running ads for Carl’s Jr. without disclosing that they were sponsored commercials and called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate.

Other groups have also made similar accusations against Ryan’s World, but it is by no means alone. To make matters more complicated, the authors of the Pediatrics study were also unable to tell when child influencers had been paid to promote the unhealthy products because they were not always clearly disclosed.

The FTC requires influencers to disclose any and all paid promotions, but as The Time’s notes, “critics say the policy is rarely enforced, and that influencers often ignore it.”

Other Issues

When it comes to kid influencers, the lack of proper disclosure is distinctly alarming because of the way these promotions are already ingrained in these child-targeted videos.

“The way these branded products are integrated in everyday life in these videos is pretty creative and unbelievable,” Marie Bragg, one of the authors of the study explained. “It’s a stealthy and powerful way of getting these unhealthy products in front of kids’ eyeballs.”

Other experts also noted that the power of these stealthy promotions is also amplified by the fact that parents may not realize or understand that their children are watching advertisements for fast food.

“These videos are incredibly powerful. Very busy parents may take a look at them and think that it’s just a cute kid talking enthusiastically about some product and not realize that it’s often part of a deliberate strategy to get their children excited about toys, or in the case of this study, unhealthy food,” said Josh Golin, the executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

“Young children view the stars of these videos as peers and friends and don’t understand that the reason YouTube stars like Ryan are so enthusiastic about products featured in there is because they are stealth marketers,” he added.

That last point is particularly noteworthy because young kids are especially susceptible to marketing. Studies have shown that children cannot distinguish between commercials and cartoons until they are eight or nine years old and that they are more likely to prefer junk food after seeing ads for them.

So when those ads are integrated into the videos kids are watching without any kind of disclosure or differentiation, everything just gets blended together even more, which can be especially potent when it comes to YouTube videos.

“My concern is that these ads may be like TV commercials on steroids,” said Bragg. “Kids watch on autoplay, which means they’ll see the same type of programming over and over again. Instead of 10 minutes of ads throughout a 30-minute TV show, they can end up seeing the same product over and over again.”

The idea that products promoted by children on YouTube could be an even more effective marketing technique than normal television ads targeted towards children is specifically distressing because that kind of advertising is in fact illegal on television.

For years, the FTC has long banned what is known as “host selling” on children’s television, which is where characters or hosts on a show try to sell products in commercials that air during those programs. However, those rules do not apply to YouTube, where hosts and characters can promote products during their shows.

While that practice has become commonplace, the issue becomes stickier when it comes to kids.

Next Steps

With these growing concerns, many people — including the authors of the study — have been calling for more regulation.

Some have specifically pointed to a piece of legislation proposed in March by Senators Ed Markey (D-Ma.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) which, among other things, would limit what they called “manipulative” advertising, like influencer marketing aimed at kids. 

Even without legislation, the authors of the study also hope that the new awareness around kid influencers and junk food product placement brings change to the industry.

In a statement to The Times, Sunlight Entertainment, the production company for Ryan’s World, said that the channel, “cares deeply about the well-being of our viewers and their health and safety is a top priority for us. As such, we strictly follow all platforms terms of service, as well as any guidelines set forth by the FTC and laws and regulations at the federal, state, and local levels.”

“As we continue to evolve our content we look forward to ways we might work together in the future to benefit the health and safety of our audience,” the company said, adding that Ryan’s World welcomed the findings of the study.

However, without set regulations in place, it is unclear if Ryan’s World and other kid influencer channels will be held accountable, especially given their alleged track record of disobeying existing rules.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (U.S. News & World Report)

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Mr Beast Defends Charli and Dixie D’Amelio Following Tournament Win Backlash

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  • Mr Beast held a trivia tournament Saturday where creators competed against each other for $300,000 to give to their fans.
  • Charli and Dixie D’Amelio won the competition, however, many accused them of having an unfair advantage because they were allowed to compete as a team and had their parent’s beside them as well.
  • Some online even suggested that the family may have been cheating through the use of phones or people off-camera.
  • Mr Beast said fans should be mad at him, not the family, since it was his decision to allow multiple people on a team. Still, he noted that the tournament was just for fun and promised to make teams equal in future competitions.

Mr Beast Hosts Creator Tournament

Internet users lashed out at TikTok stars Charli and Dixie D’Amelio on Saturday, accusing them of cheating in YouTuber Mr Beast’s trivia competition.

Mr Beast, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, held his latest influencer tournament that same day, following the success of his Rock Paper Scissors charity steam earlier this year. During the trivia event, 24 creators competed against one another for $300,000 to give to their fans.

Contestants included the likes of Addison Rae, Bretman Rock, KSI, Safiya Nygaard, Jaiden Animations, and tons of others, with the D’Amelio sisters ultimately being declared the winners.

However, many were unhappy with that, saying they cheated and had an unfair advantage. This is because the sisters were allowed to compete as a team and also brought their parents along with them.

It is worth noting that only Dixie competed in the final round of trivia against comic book artist and YouTuber ZHC. Still, many felt like the 4 on 1 match-ups weren’t fair and even suggested that the family was cheating through the use of phones or people off-screen.

Mr Beast Defends D’Amelio Family

Mr Beast eventually had to try and diffuse the situation after seeing the family faced a slew of backlash online.

“I see some people mad that I let multiple people compete on a single team in the trivia tournament!” he wrote. “Honestly, the tournament was just for fun and to bring the community together and I’d appreciate if you were to get mad at anyone, get mad at me. It was my decision lol”

“The criticism is noted and I’ll definitely keep all the teams the same size next time! 100% my b Red heart,” he continued.

Fellow YouTubers expressed a similar sentiment about the competition being all for fun, with the money ultimately going to fans in need.

See what others are saying: (Dexerto) (Insider) (HITC)

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Tana Mongeau’s “Booty for Biden” Promotion Sparks Legal Concerns

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  • YouTube star Tana Mongeau has come under fire for offering nude photos to fans who proved they voted for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
  • Some said it could be considered vote buying, which is a felony. Others said it encourages fans to take ballot selfies as proof, which are illegal in several states.
  • Mongeau eventually added, “by proof I just meant tell me,” before ultimately deleting the post and writing, “in all seriousness if you can vote please do.”
  • She did, however, claim that she received “tens of thousands of messages” from people telling her they voted for Biden.

Tana Launches #BootyForBiden Campaign

YouTuber Tana Mongeau promised to send nudes to Joe Biden supporters on Wednesday as part of her “Booty for Biden” campaign, which has now raised legal concerns.

Mongeau advertised the strategy in a Tweet, writing: “if you send me proof u voted for Biden I’ll send you a nude for free.” 

Image
@Tanamongeau

That post, of course, was accompanied by a link to her OnlyFans page and the hashtag #bootyforbiden. However, the problem is that people said she was breaking the law and asking her fans to do the same.

Some say what she did could be considered vote buying, which is a felony punishable by a fine and up to two years behind bars. Because she was asking fans for proof of their vote, others said she was also encouraging ballot selfies, which are illegal in several states. 

2016 map that shows where voter selfies are illegal. Source: Vox

Tana Deletes Post

Mongeau eventually clarified what she meant by proof, saying, “I just meant tell me.”

@Tanamongeau

She then ended up deleting her initial offer altogether, following up with, “in all seriousness if you can vote please do… not voting is voting and the world is scary.”

It’s unclear what the response to her post was like on her end, but she did later claim that her campaign “broke Tana Uncensored,” in an Instagram post that featured a NSFW photo of her with the Democratic candidates face photoshopped over hers.

“Tana Uncensored messages are broken, and the point has been made: I got tens of thousands of messages of people telling me that they willingly voted for Joe Biden,” Mongeau added in an Instagram Story.

“It’s the best thing ever. You don’t need my ass to make you go vote. So go vote because you wanna see a change in this country just like me, and thank you to everyone who joined me today. Booty for Biden.”

For now, it seems like the YouTuber is trying to join the list of stars encouraging their fans to vote, but the way she’s been doing it might be a problem.

Tana Loses YouTube Verification

Reports surfaced this weekend pointing out that Mongeau has just lost her YouTube verification check. As of now, there’s no confirmed reason, evidence, or explanation for this, but some internet users and media outlets are suggesting it could have to do with the controversy.

Neither Mongeau nor the platform has commented on the verification change so it’s tough to say if they are connected.

Meanwhile, fans online are offering up other explanations, saying it could be because she changed her name back from Tana Paul to Tana Mongeau. 

See what others are saying: (TMZ) (Cosmopolitan) (Daily Dot)

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