Watch CBS News

Kim Kardashian warns parents of "Momo challenge," but YouTube says it sees no evidence

Editor's note: This article features disturbing content and mentions of suicide.

As parents continue to worry about the potential dangers of the "Momo challenge", Kim Kardashian is warning her fans on Instagram and asking YouTube to address the problem. The disturbing meme went viral this week for the second time after police in the U.K. received concerned messages from parents about videos found on their children's social media. "Momo" is a creepy character that appears to dare children to take part in dangerous behavior or even harm themselves, although it's not clear how widespread the videos really are.

In two posts on her Instagram story, Kardashian asked YouTube to help eliminate the challenge from its platform. She shared a Facebook post from Amyre Shonny warning parents about Momo, as well as a text message thread sent to her about the videos appearing on YouTube Kids, a family-friendly app for children. In both stories, Kardashian tagged YouTube asking for help and warned parents about potentially disturbing content on the app. "Please monitor what your kids are watching!!!" She wrote. 

Kim Kardashian / Instagram

Despite reports from parents across social media, YouTube maintains they haven't found the disturbing clips on their platform. "We want to clear something up regarding the Momo Challenge: We've seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube," YouTube tweeted. "Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are against our policies." 

In another tweet, it added, "If you see videos including harmful or dangerous challenges on YouTube, we encourage you to flag them to us immediately."

YouTube / Instagram

YouTube also responded directly to Kardashian on its Instagram story Wednesday. "We take these reports seriously," YouTube wrote. "We're on it." The story linked to a response from an employee at Google, which owns YouTube. "After much review, we've seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube," Julia from TeamYouTube wrote. "Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are clearly against our policies, the Momo challenge included." 

In the post, the company also said that while videos of the actual challenge are prohibited, YouTubers are allowed to "discuss, report, or educate people on the Momo challenge/character on YouTube." It clarifies that images of the character itself are allowed on YouTube but not YouTube Kids. 

YouTube also shared updates related to the safety of minors Thursday, which include disabling comments on videos featuring minors, launching a new comments classifier and taking action on creators who cause egregious harm to the community. 

The "Momo challenge" gained international recognition last summer and was initially considered a hoax, seemingly disappearing soon after it went viral. But while it may have started as a hoax, internet trolls have latched onto the fear it has instilled in both children and parents. 

"Momo challenge" spurs girl's dangerous behavior, mom says 01:40

This week, parents across the U.K. reported finding the game on WhatsApp as well as hidden within animated videos for children across social media. "WhatsApp cares deeply about the safety of our users," a WhatsApp spokesperson told CBS News on Tuesday. "It's easy to block any phone number and we encourage users to report problematic messages to us so we can take action."

When children participate in the challenge, they allegedly contact "Momo," who uses a creepy image and communicates primarily through WhatsApp. Momo encourages a participant to complete various tasks if they want to avoid being "cursed," some of which include self-harm. The challenge supposedly ends with Momo telling the participant to take their own life and record it for social media. 

Despite YouTube and WhatsApp's claims that there is no evidence of real Momo challenges on these apps, parents all over the world have reported their children expressing fear over Momo. Pearl Woods told CBS Sacramento that her 12-year-old daughter with autism began to exhibit dangerous behaviors like turning on the gas stove after encountering a Momo video. "Just another minute, she could've blown up my apartment, she could've hurt herself, other people, beyond scary," Woods said. A mother from Florida has also been sharing video evidence of similar disturbing messages she found hidden in animations on YouTube Kids. 

The original image of "Momo" is actually a sculpture called "Mother Bird" by Japanese artist Keisuke Aisawa, which was on display in 2016 at the Vanilla Gallery in Tokyo. There is no evidence that Aisawa's company Link Factory was involved in the creation or execution of the Momo challenge. Link Factory did not immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.