The disturbing avatar used in the Momo challenge. Taken from Twitter. @UIDIFGETabasco

Lexington Park, MD – It started with Blue Whale, an online phenomenon that claimed the lives of around 130 teenagers in Russia. This challenge involved an unknown administrator contacting teenagers through social media and giving them one task to complete every day for 50 days. Though the tasks start harmlessly enough (watch a scary video, draw a whale on a piece of paper), they quickly escalate to self-harm and on the 50th day, the player is told to commit suicide. This was the challenge that swept Russia’s most popular social media network, VKontakte, in 2016.

Now, a new disturbing game is spreading through Minecraft, a video game with around 75 million monthly players. The Momo suicide game has spread through Whatsapp, and has already been linked to the death of one teen. This new game features similar disturbing methods to the Blue Whale. Minecraft players begin receiving threatening and violent messages from an unknown person through Whatsapp. Then, using the avatar of a grotesque woman created by a designer not associated with the game, the unknown controller threatens the player if they refuse to follow orders. The game may culminate in the controller telling the player to commit suicide.

The Momo suicide game may be just one craze in a series of disturbing trends pervasive in digital media. It can be considered similar to Elsagate, a YouTube phenomenon targeted at young children. These videos, which receive hundreds of thousands of views, use popular children’s characters, such as Elsa from Frozen, and put them in videos containing violence, sexual situations, drugs and otherwise inappropriate situations. After public awareness about Elsagate grew, YouTube began removing Elsagate content, though the issue still remains prevalent across social media.

Advertisements about Momo have also appeared on YouTube. Children watching Minecraft-related content may see disturbing images of Momo, which lead right to the suicide challenge. Fortunately, officials are taking steps to delete this content and end this disturbing challenge. A Microsoft spokesperson said, “This is a misuse of the platform and we are taking action to restrict access to the mod.”

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