YouTube says Momo Challenge is a hoax, but Pender Co. school system takes preventative action to block access

Japanese doll that inspired the 'Momo' challenge
Japanese doll that inspired the 'Momo' challenge
Published: Mar. 1, 2019 at 5:51 AM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The rumored Momo Challenge on YouTube is not real, Google said in a statement, but Pender County Schools is still taking preventative action to block potential content that might cause harm to students.

The so-called hoax Momo Challenge is said to involve a creepy-looking girl that encourages viewers to harm themselves or others. Other forms of the false rumor claim the frightening character appears in WhatsApp messages and prompts children to complete harmful challenges.

WECT reached out to Google, which is the parent company of YouTube, to set the record straight.

“Contrary to press reports, we’ve not received any recent evidence of videos showing or promoting the Momo challenge on YouTube. Content of this kind would be in violation of our policies and removed immediately,” the company said in a statement.

This content has not been found on YouTube Kids, the company emphasized.

Google wrote in a thread Wednesday it had done “much review” before alerting users the content has not been found on YouTube.

On Thursday, Pender County Schools said it is using safe search technology to block websites, videos, or references so that students will not be able to see any content related to the Momo Challenge hoax.

“It’s something that people in the community are discussing, so it is better to be safe than sorry, and if it’s something that does end up popping up somewhere, we want to be able to prevent that before it can even get started," Pender County Schools Communications Director Alex Riley said.

Students will not be able to access content featuring the keywords “Momo” and “Momo Challenge,” with various spellings. The new firewall phrases were implemented Wednesday night, Riley said.

“We try to create the safest environment we can online for students," he said. We want the internet to be a place they can go and find the knowledge they are looking for, if they’re doing research projects and stuff like that but we don’t want them to run across material that could offend them or lead them astray.”

If students try to access that content on a district-owned device like a computer or iPad, or even their own device connected to the district wireless network, an error message will be displayed, said Riley.

“PCS is committed to providing a secure digital environment where students can engage and learn while on school property,” the school system said in a Facebook post. “Safe search technology on search engines, blocks on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and restricted mode search on YouTube helps prevent inappropriate content from reaching your children daily.”

Pender County Schools also encourages parents to speak with their children about online safety.

Copyright 2019 WECT. All rights reserved.