I first heard about Momo in my local parents’ WhatsApp group. Someone had screenshotted a Facebook post about a creepy puppet that supposedly appeared in unsuspecting children’s phone messages and spliced into YouTube videos, dispensing advice on self-harm and violent acts. I reacted with suspicion: this would hardly be the first time that something on Facebook turned out not to be true, and the Momo challenge seemed a bit too on the nose – too obviously sinister – to be real. It turned out that Momo was indeed a hoax, a viral shock-story driven by a frightening image and well-intentioned worry about children’s safety online. There have been videos on YouTube Kids with suicide advice spliced into otherwise innocuous cartoons as a malicious “joke” – they just don’t involve Momo. Parents have spotted them before; the American paediatrician Free Hess recorded and documented one on pedimom.com. And this is, lamentably, the tip of the iceberg when it comes to inappropriate content on the video platform, even on the version that’s supposedly curated for kids. YouTube has been battling disturbing videos for years, but a 2017 Medium post by the writer and artist James Bridle brought the problem to widespread attention,… Read full this story
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