Expert in Online Hoaxes Offers to Calm Fears of “Momo” Suicide Game


For Immediate Release: March 1, 2019
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
press@centerforinquiry.org - (207) 358-9785

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A viral internet hoax is causing panic among parents and educators, terrified that kids are being lured into self-harm and suicide by a creature called “Momo.” Benjamin Radford, an expert in folklore and urban legends is offering to calm the fears of adults and children by talking to classes about the truth behind the Momo Challenge and other internet myths.

Images of a creepy woman with distorted, reptilian features are alleged to appear in social media posts and messaging apps targeting kids, accompanied by instructions to complete progressively strange tasks that end with taking their own lives. But despite a recent swell of social media posts and local news reports about the threat Momo poses, there is no evidence that any such “challenge” exists at all. It is a textbook internet hoax.

Benjamin Radford

“It’s entirely understandable that parents would be concerned about something like this, especially since cyberbullying and online extortion are real things,” said Center for Inquiry investigator and folklorist Benjamin Radford, deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine and author of books such as Bad Clowns. “But like the Blue Whale ‘suicide game’ before it, Momo is a viral myth that has sparked a moral panic.”

Radford, who has written an explanatory piece about Momo for Skeptical Inquirer, says the alarm presents an opportunity to educate both kids and grownups about media myths. “While the images of Momo are disturbing, a little critical thinking can go a long way toward alleviating unnecessary fears. So let’s take this moment to understand how these myths get started and learn to recognize hoaxes for the next time something like this pops up in our social media feeds.”

Radford is offering to speak to school classrooms via video chat to dispel the Momo myth, calm fears, and help students and teachers alike understand the origins of viral hoaxes.

Interested educators can contact the Center for Inquiry at press@centerforinquiry.org to arrange for Radford to speak to their classes.

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at centerforinquiry.org.