26 votes

Momo Challenge, memes, and "Secure, Contain, Protect" (SCP)

First, I apologize if this is inappropriate.

I wouldn't be surprised if some folks here saw my mention of the "Momo Challenge" and roll their eyes, but after my brother asked me about it, I looked it up last night, and found some interesting stuff happening around it. I guess it's going through a second iteration right now, with supposed images of "Momo," a sculpture of a Japanese witch, and a voice saying to do really graphic stuff. The previous iteration was supposedly messaging a number via WhatsApp, and getting challenges, and threats that if you tell your parents (it's supposedly targeting kids), Momo will get you. The Guardian has a nice write up about the current issue with a picture, you have been warned if you scare easily. Now, she'll tell you to do stuff in a manipulated video. There's even themomochallenge.tk (also spooky if you're sensitive to uncanny sort of stuff like I am), which seems to exist as a way to fluff the story, and asks for what I assume is a requested cryptocurrency transaction (how a kid is going to get crypto to send, I don't know). I may seem like I'm writing something absurd, but this is not in ~creative on purpose, and I feel the propagation of this sort of thing speaks to several problems that may or may not be solvable.

My fascination is with the spread of the idea, and its possible effects. As somebody who occasionally reads the SCP Wiki (not to do with Secure Copy Protocol), I noticed something interesting in the rapid spread of this meme, and am sure sociologists would describe it differently. It behaves (insofar as a meme is an entity with a life or intelligence) in a way SCP would describe as "infohazardous" or "cognitohazardous." They don't mean the same thing: The information is a hazard (infohazard) because you know have this bomb sitting in your lap. You can warn people, but they may go out, see the supposed deaths, and believe it, or you can get a chain of people warning others. In either case, you pass the ball. The meme grows.

It is cognitohazardous for the reason that this hoax, by design, preys on fear. Just typing this, the face is burned into my vision (again, I'm sensitive), I'm home alone, and becoming rather shaky as I jump to look behind me at random noises. The chosen image of the sculpture was selected for this reason, it is deeply unsettling, shakes your rational mind, and you're potentially induced into believing it. I have, in a way, fallen victim to this.

The question comes, going back to my SCP reference: How can this be contained? I'm not looking to start a task force, or enlist people's help, but this is obviously not the first time this has happened with things from Satanic rituals and 2016(?)'s Blue Whale. My mom got swept up by the Satanic thing in the 90s, I watched a video about satanic sacrifices before Halloween 1997, I think, that she got from her church, so I have some experience from the other side. My primary concern is not that children are being compelled to kill themselves, but that the ensuing panic moral panic alone can cause psychological trauma and rampant misinformation. Is it possible to convince believers that something like this isn't real before copycat stuff comes out?

29 comments

  1. [9]
    balooga Link
    In the age of viral online trolling, hoaxing, fearmongering, propagandizing, photoshopping, deepfaking, and the general proliferation of FAKE NEWS, we really need to promote a culture of healthy...

    In the age of viral online trolling, hoaxing, fearmongering, propagandizing, photoshopping, deepfaking, and the general proliferation of FAKE NEWS, we really need to promote a culture of healthy skepticism. Unfortunately, I think society is moving in the opposite direction right now. But we must be nearing a tipping point.

    There's an old saying in Tennessee— I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." We become less gullible as our exposure to deception increases. I'm optimistic that, if these post-truth floodwaters we're in continue to rise, people will wise up and stop taking things at face value. I'm not sure what we can do as individuals in the meantime, but generally advocating for more skepticism seems like a good idea to me.

    10 votes
    1. [2]
      knocklessmonster Link Parent
      Would promoting skepticism be best done when there isn't a hoax? I mentioned already, but an example I have is that I couldn't prove the Momo thing didn't happen, despite there being no proof it,...

      Would promoting skepticism be best done when there isn't a hoax? I mentioned already, but an example I have is that I couldn't prove the Momo thing didn't happen, despite there being no proof it, and that would have been to a likely somewhat emotional individual anyway, and we aren't known for thinking at our best when we're scared.

      4 votes
      1. cfabbro (edited ) Link Parent
        IMO a major part of promoting skepticism would be to make people aware of the sound logic behind Russell's Teapot, which perfectly illustrates where the burden of proof lies in these situations...

        I couldn't prove the Momo thing didn't happen, despite there being no proof it

        IMO a major part of promoting skepticism would be to make people aware of the sound logic behind Russell's Teapot, which perfectly illustrates where the burden of proof lies in these situations and why it's not on the skeptic:

        "Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time." - Bertrand Russell

        Or more specifically by teaching people about the argument from ignorance fallacy.

        15 votes
    2. [6]
      Algernon_Asimov (edited ) Link Parent
      [Off-topic digression redacted due to a misunderstanding on my part.]

      [Off-topic digression redacted due to a misunderstanding on my part.]

      4 votes
      1. Eylrid Link Parent
        "There's an old saying in Tennessee— I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee" is a reference to George Bush

        "There's an old saying in Tennessee— I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee" is a reference to George Bush

        4 votes
      2. [4]
        balooga Link Parent
        Haha, I was being cheeky and quoting George W. Bush’s infamous misquote but I suppose only Americans are likely to catch the reference. I can’t think of the real quote anymore without hearing his...

        Haha, I was being cheeky and quoting George W. Bush’s infamous misquote but I suppose only Americans are likely to catch the reference. I can’t think of the real quote anymore without hearing his voice mangle it in my head.

        4 votes
        1. [2]
          xstresedg Link Parent
          While I'm Canadian, I got that reference. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice.... ....You can't fool me again" or something like that.

          While I'm Canadian, I got that reference. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice.... ....You can't fool me again" or something like that.

          2 votes
          1. frickindeal Link Parent
            "...can't get fooled again" was the actual quote, which was closer to The Who's 'Won't Get Fooled Again' song title than to the original saying.

            "...can't get fooled again" was the actual quote, which was closer to The Who's 'Won't Get Fooled Again' song title than to the original saying.

            4 votes
        2. Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
          Oh. I didn't know. Sorry for intruding.

          Oh. I didn't know. Sorry for intruding.

          1 vote
  2. [3]
    diode Link
    Maybe memes should be dealt with the same way physical virii are: through innoculation. It makes sense that if we were desensitized to things they would lose their memetic potency.

    Maybe memes should be dealt with the same way physical virii are: through innoculation. It makes sense that if we were desensitized to things they would lose their memetic potency.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      knocklessmonster Link Parent
      How can you do that with something like Momo's Challenge. In /r/elsagate, a theory has come up qbout YT channel ages within a couple days publishing videos as a way of furthering the hoax. Back to...

      How can you do that with something like Momo's Challenge. In /r/elsagate, a theory has come up qbout YT channel ages within a couple days publishing videos as a way of furthering the hoax. Back to my SCP comparison, the idea itself, in any form, seems to be more dangerous, and it seems to get worse.

      I'm not trying to shoot you down, but is it possible that it may be like pre-vaccine Chicken Pox (it was available in 1994, right after I got the virus) where getting the virus is "good" as a kid so you don't get it as an adult? I hope I make sense, the bigger picture here is bugging me pretty badly.

      4 votes
      1. S7272C655 Link Parent
        I think that, much like Chicken Pox, it's a mix of both a necessity for inoculation and, barring that, getting it as a child rather than an adult. Obviously the best way to fight this, in my...

        I think that, much like Chicken Pox, it's a mix of both a necessity for inoculation and, barring that, getting it as a child rather than an adult. Obviously the best way to fight this, in my opinion, would be through showing children things like this in a controlled situation, so that they can understand that nothing will happen, that internet monsters are just as fake as monsters under the bed. This would be the inoculation. However, if this isn't possible, or if their parents just neglect to do it, then it's much better to fall into something like this as a child where, barring some horrific tragedy, they can't do too much damage. As opposed to an adult, who can be frightened into hurting other people and/or hurting themselves, not only physically but mentally and, in the case of a scam-type situation, financially.

        7 votes
  3. [2]
    zaarn Link
    There is probably no good defense, similar to a virus, memetic information spreads in an organic way. CGPGrey made an excellent video about that. Essentially all memetic information is constantly...

    There is probably no good defense, similar to a virus, memetic information spreads in an organic way. CGPGrey made an excellent video about that. Essentially all memetic information is constantly optimized for maximum effect. If you immunize people a specific version of it, a single surviving piece can evolve to harm the immunized people again.

    What enables this spread is the ease with which information can flow between individuals outwards, ie, how fast one can become a carrier and spread information to new people. If you limit how fast people can spread it, the memetic agent is already weakend and less likely to evolve or reproduce. If you further this by counter-memetic agents (ie a meme that for example says that momo is lying so you shouldn't listen to her) and awareness campaigns in general, memes like momo should have a much harder time.

    5 votes
    1. knocklessmonster Link Parent
      Was it This Video Will Make You Angry A counter-meme would be an interesting way to go about it, for sure, but you then go into the whole issue of forced memes, which tend not to last as long.

      Was it This Video Will Make You Angry

      A counter-meme would be an interesting way to go about it, for sure, but you then go into the whole issue of forced memes, which tend not to last as long.

      4 votes
  4. [4]
    satan Link
    Can someone donate $10 to themomochallenge.tk and see what the challenge is (if there is one) for the lols? I would but i'm poor.

    Can someone donate $10 to themomochallenge.tk and see what the challenge is (if there is one) for the lols? I would but i'm poor.

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      knocklessmonster Link Parent
      I'm tempted, but ir would have to be on a burner card

      I'm tempted, but ir would have to be on a burner card

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        SAKO4444GODZ Link Parent
        You said cryptocurrency tho?

        You said cryptocurrency tho?

        3 votes
        1. knocklessmonster Link Parent
          I may have been drunk, and not thinking clearly. Double checking it, it says bitcoin.

          I may have been drunk, and not thinking clearly. Double checking it, it says bitcoin.

          4 votes
  5. [2]
    uncre4tive Link
    I think the main cause for the rapid spread of these sorts of things is mainly due to how most older parents care a lot for their kids which causes them to believe obvious hoaxes out of worry for...

    I think the main cause for the rapid spread of these sorts of things is mainly due to how most older parents care a lot for their kids which causes them to believe obvious hoaxes out of worry for their kids. This along with how easy it is for things to spread on the internet can cause these things to be blown way out of proportion. And while it's easy for someone to learn something new, it's much much harder to make them unlearn it which ends up with them propagating the meme even further. The only way to really stop the spread of this kind of thing imo would be to somehow make these older people stop caring about the younger generation which is an impossible task.

    2 votes
    1. knocklessmonster (edited ) Link Parent
      That's not going to happen, and probably shouldn't. With this sort of stuff, since any way of spreading it is potentially going to spread the full force of the meme, would it be better to not...

      somehow make these older people stop caring about the younger generation which is an impossible task.

      That's not going to happen, and probably shouldn't.

      With this sort of stuff, since any way of spreading it is potentially going to spread the full force of the meme, would it be better to not mention it, and maybe only intervene if one personally observes somebody who is suffering as a result of it? I wound up deleting a comment on facebook because I didn't think I could reasonably convince somebody it was a hoax, and agree with the end of that Guardian article in that the only way to kill something like this is to stop talking about it.

      1 vote
  6. [6]
    superkp Link
    Ok, this is a really low-effort comment, but god dammit I hate that fuckin picture. There's something about it that completely sets off my lizard-brain into creeped-out mode. Jesus christ. I have...

    Ok, this is a really low-effort comment, but god dammit I hate that fuckin picture. There's something about it that completely sets off my lizard-brain into creeped-out mode.

    Jesus christ. I have no idea why I clicked on it at midnight. fuck.

    What the hell world is my 4-year old growing up in?

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      kfwyre Link Parent
      Same mistake here. I was expecting something more conventionally spooky: dark background, static/distortion, an unsettling silhouette. Instead, I'm met with a brightly lit uncanny valley denizen...

      Same mistake here. I was expecting something more conventionally spooky: dark background, static/distortion, an unsettling silhouette. Instead, I'm met with a brightly lit uncanny valley denizen sporting giant eyes and a toothless, rictus grin. It reminds me of a supernatural version of the Overly Attached Girlfriend meme.

      Regardless of the details or my expectations, my lizard-brain had the same response as yours. Something about the photo is deeply unsettling in a visceral and immediate way.

      1 vote
      1. superkp Link Parent
        Yeah. There's just something deeply wrong about it. Great art! The artist captured something I can't even put into words. But I hate it.

        Yeah. There's just something deeply wrong about it.

        Great art! The artist captured something I can't even put into words.

        But I hate it.

        1 vote
      2. knocklessmonster Link Parent
        I'm not looking it up, but there was a Momo photoshop contest on some corner of the internet (for a laugh, I'd assume), and somebody submitted Overly Attached Momo.

        I'm not looking it up, but there was a Momo photoshop contest on some corner of the internet (for a laugh, I'd assume), and somebody submitted Overly Attached Momo.

    2. [2]
      knocklessmonster Link Parent
      The whole sculpture, oddly, I can do. Just the face, I can't. And you can't say I didn't warn you😛

      The whole sculpture, oddly, I can do. Just the face, I can't.

      And you can't say I didn't warn you😛

      1 vote
      1. superkp Link Parent
        Yep, you warned me. That's just what I hate. I still clicked the link. When we're trained to click interesting things despite warnings, we don't really think about it - further encapsulating the...

        Yep, you warned me. That's just what I hate. I still clicked the link. When we're trained to click interesting things despite warnings, we don't really think about it - further encapsulating the whole cogitohazard thing.

        1 vote
  7. [2]
    Gyrfalcon Link
    I was following a line of thought that might be interesting here, though not terribly useful since the original object is a work of art that the artist probably wants to keep intact. One thing...

    I was following a line of thought that might be interesting here, though not terribly useful since the original object is a work of art that the artist probably wants to keep intact.

    One thing that really gets me is that objects lose some aspect of what makes them seem real and whole when you take them apart and look at their inner workings. For a personal example, I like to work with computer hardware, and I get kind of an odd dissonance when I think about a PC first a single object, and then remember the individual components and how they work. At a high level, it's magic, and at a low level, it's a lot of human effort at play.

    I wonder if a similar approach could be taken to what is at it's core, a spooky physical object like this one. Maybe a video showing a person harmlessly interacting with the statue as a whole would be sufficient. It would satisfy me more if the statue could be shown and then dismantled, as certainly that would dispel any fears of its realness.

    On another note, as an avid SCP reader, if you want a good spooky face read, there's always SCP 1471. For maximum spookiness (and a little bit of sad), click through at the bottom to read the accompanying tale.

    1. knocklessmonster Link Parent
      That was a good story, and really well-designed SCP, actually. It's got creep factor I deal with nightly (dark shapes in my periphery that seem to materialize). With the statue, pictures of people...

      That was a good story, and really well-designed SCP, actually. It's got creep factor I deal with nightly (dark shapes in my periphery that seem to materialize).

      With the statue, pictures of people next to it are okay for me, but the face is what does it.

  8. knocklessmonster Link
    I'm not making a new post, but I found this Wired Article about not falling for viral scares. It was actually pretty good and advocates caution in the face of a scare: See it, understand it, and...

    I'm not making a new post, but I found this Wired Article about not falling for viral scares. It was actually pretty good and advocates caution in the face of a scare: See it, understand it, and wait before asking your children. Pay attention to warnings, but make sure they aren't just people in agencies being as scared as you were initially.