- 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.”
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.”
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.
Black Mirror or Reality? Microsoft Granted Patent for Tech That Lets It Create Chatbots of Dead People
- Microsoft has been granted a patent that would allow it to create artificial intelligence chatbots of dead people using “voice data, social media posts, electronic messages, written letters, etc.”
- As Microsoft noted in its patent proposal, chatbots could also be created to imitate living people — opening the door for users to train a digital version of themselves to be used after they die.
- In the patent filing, Microsoft also suggested creating 2D or 3D models of chatbot subjects by studying images and videos of them.
- Online, many noted the similarities between Microsoft’s patent and a 2013 episode of Black Mirror in which a woman creates an AI version of her deceased boyfriend.
Microsoft Granted Controversial Patent
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted Microsoft a patent for technology that would allow it digitally revive dead people.
If implemented, Microsoft would use information like “voice data, social media posts, electronic messages, written letters, etc.,” to create artificial intelligence chatbots meant to replicate the person.
In its filing, Microsoft noted that the person could be “a friend, a relative, an acquaintance, a celebrity, a fictional character, a historical figure, a random entity, etc.”
Microsoft also noted, “the specific person may also correspond to oneself (e.g., the user creating/training the chat bot), or a version of oneself (e.g., oneself at a particular age or stage of life).”
As The Independent pointed out, that opens up the door for living users to be able to “train a digital replacement in the event of their death.”
But it doesn’t stop there. Microsoft has also suggested creating 2D or even 3D models of the person by studying images and videos of them.
Has Life Finally Become an Episode of Black Mirror?
Online, many noted the similarities between Microsoft’s patent and a 2013 episode of Black Mirror in which a character, played by Hayley Atwell, revives her recently-deceased boyfriend through an AI chatbot. As the episode progresses, that AI — played by Domhnall Gleeson — eventually becomes an exact replica android of her boyfriend.
“More people that need to remember Black Mirror is a warning sign, not a product manual,” said Tama Leaver, an internet studies professor at Curtin University in Australia.
Indeed, many critics have interpreted the episode, which focuses on the grief felt by Atwell’s character because of her loss, as an examination of “our own mortality and our desire to play God.”
“It shines a spotlight on our desperate need to reverse a natural and necessary part of life without considering the consequences on our emotional well-being,” Roxanne Sancto said in a review for Paste Magazine.
In fact, series creator Charlie Brooker said part of his direct inspiration for writing the episode was based on Twitter and the question: “What if these people were dead and it was software emulating their thoughts?”
See what others are saying: (The Independent) (IGN) (Indie Wire)
JoJo Siwa Fans Caution Against Labeling the Star’s Sexuality
- JoJo Siwa was featured in two TikTok videos Wednesday that many felt signaled her as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
- One showed her dancing and lip-syncing to Paramore’s “Aint It Fun,” along with members of the TikTok group Pride House LA. Siwa specifically mouthed the lyric “Now you’re one of us,” which is also the caption of the post.
- The second video showed her lip-syncing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” a song that has long been heralded as an LGBTQ+ anthem.
- The 17-year-old entertainer has not directly addressed speculations about her sexuality, prompting many to caution against labeling her.
JoJo Siwa TikToks Trigger Sexuality Speculations
JoJo Siwa fans are urging the public not to label the 17-year-old entertainer’s sexuality, especially when she has not explicitly done so herself.
The request came after Siwa became a trending topic Wednesday when many speculated that she had come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
The speculations stem from two TikTok videos she was featured in. The first was posted on choreographer Kent Boyd’s account. It features him and other members of the TikTok group Pride House LA, which includes several stars from Disney Channel’s “Teen Beach Movie.”
It showed them all lip-syncing and dancing along to Paramore’s hit song “Ain’t It Fun.” Siaw specifically mouthed the lyric “Now you’re one of us.” That lyric was also the caption of the post.
Later in the day, Siwa posted a video on her personal TikTok account that featured her lip-syncing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” a song that has long been heralded as an LGBTQ+ anthem.
Part of the lyrics she sang along to were: “No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian transgender life / I’m on the right track baby, I was born to survive.”
These posts really started all the rumors online, and things picked up when influencers like James Charles, Bretman Rock, and others expressed their support.
Many fans also left comments on the videos saying they were proud of her, and journalist Yashar Ali tweeted, “This feels like a big deal if it is what I think it is…JoJo Siwa is hugely popular with kids.”
“And as someone just pointed out, if it is what I think it is, she’s doing it at the height of her fame when she’s selling out arenas,” he continued.
Despite the wave of praise, other fans feel that it’s inappropriate and harmful to make speculations about anyone’s sexuality.
Many have even shared their own experiences coming out, reminding people not to label Siwa as anything until she explicitly chooses to share that information herself.
While Siwa hasn’t directly addressed any of the responses as of yet, she has retweeted a post that features her video, the pride flag emoji, and the caption, “@itsjojosiwa is on the right track, she was born this way.”
Still, others also noted that she has publicly asked Lady Gaga to collaborate with her in the past, so perhaps this is a signal about that happening soon.
Others believe it could also be Siwa’s way of signaling that she is an ally of the LGBTQ+ community.
See what others are saying: (Insider) (Metro) (Teen Vogue)
Google Investigates Top AI Researcher Who Was Looking Into a Previous Firing
- Google is investigating the co-leader of its Ethical AI team, Margaret Mitchell.
- While Mitchell has not been fired, her account has been locked because Google said she “exfiltrated thousands of files” and shared them with people outside of the company.
- In a tweet, Mitchell indicated that she had been “documenting current critical issues” related to the firing of another Google AI Ethicist in December.
- Sources reportedly told Axios that Mitchell had been specifically looking for messages that showed discriminatory treatment of that fired researcher.
Google Investigates Margaret Mitchell
On Tuesday, Google stated that it is now investigating the co-leader of its Ethical Al team, Margaret Mitchell.
Mitchell has reportedly not been fired, but her company email account has been locked.
According to Google, its security systems automatically lock employee accounts “when they detect that the account is at risk of compromise due to credential problems or when an automated rule involving the handling of sensitive data has been triggered.”
In this case, Google said Mitchell “exfiltrated thousands of files” and then shared them with people outside of the company.
Why Did Mitchell Begin Looking Through Files?
Mitchell’s investigation is related to the ousting of another top AI ethicist at Google, Timnit Gebru, who was fired at the beginning of December.
Before Gebru was fired, managers reportedly instructed her to withdraw an unpublished research paper upon her return from vacation. In an email to the internal listserv Google Brain Women and Allies, Gebru then voiced frustration at managers for allegedly making the decision without her input.
“You are not worth having any conversations about this, since you are not someone whose humanity (let alone expertise recognized by journalists, governments, scientists, civic organizations such as the electronic frontiers foundation etc) is acknowledged or valued in this company,” Gebru said in a critique of the decision.
Gebru’s firing led to such a massive outcry from Google employees that Google CEO Sundar Pichai pledged to investigate the situation.
On Friday, Mitchell indicated in a tweet that she was also looking into Gebru’s firing, saying that she was “documenting current critical issues from [Gebru’s] firing, point by point, inside and outside work.”
According to Axios, sources have said that Mitchell used automated scripts to siphon through messages that potentially document discriminatory treatment against Gebru.