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HÀ NỘI — In recent weeks, the so-called ‘Momo challenge’ has triggered hysteria among Vietnamese netizens.
Images of a disturbing bug-eyed lady face on a chicken body have sowed seeds of panic to worrying parents as the hoax has been claime by some on social networks to entice children to commit suicide.
Fuelled by media reports and fears about children’s online activities, the hysteria has bubbled into the mainstream and become a hot topic on parents’ forums.
Last Thursday, YouTube said that there was no evidence of videos promoting Momo challenges on its platform.
The UK’s The Guardian newspaper on the same day quoted the Samaritans and the UK-based National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children stating that although there was no evidence the challenge could impose any harm to children, vulnerable people were put at risk by posts mentioning suicide, triggering thoughts of self-harm.
The urban legend in which children and adolescents are goaded to harm themselves and even commit suicide is first thought to have appeared online in July last year.
Snapshots of the creepy woman pop up in kid-targeted videos, sending messages which ask viewers to perform dangerous acts.
However, in reality, the signature image of Momo was taken from a sculpture named Mother Bird by Japanese artist Keisuke Aisawa which was first displayed in 2016.
The urban legend has since been spread by media reports and over zealous parents.
Besides the Momo challenge, on the Vietnamese online community, the story of a girl in HCM City who is said to have committed suicide because of being haunted by Kuma Thong, a doll that originated from Thailand, has been spread in recent days.
According to lore, this doll is bewitched and believed to bring luck to its owners.
Kuma Thong was even featured in the list of most searched keywords on Google Vietnam from February 15 to 22.
The story remains unconfirmed until now.
Although there has been no reported harm caused by the Momo challenge, the phenomenon has once again reminded parents of the negative impacts of their children using smart devices and surfing the internet without parental guidance.
According to Lê Quang Tự Do, deputy head of the Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information under Ministry of Information and Communications, the agency requested Google to remove all Momo challenge videos from YouTube and block and filter these clips from being uploaded.
“Users hold the ultimate power in the fight against toxic content. To minimise negative effects of internet hoaxes on children, parents and relatives should perform the role of monitoring and orienting as well as supply them with online safety guidelines,” he told Tuổi trẻ (Youth) newspaper.
Quách Thu Huế, an expert from Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said children tended to watch videos on YouTube at a young age.
Therefore, she recommended parents set up safety apps and limit children’s time on smartphones.
Lawyer Bùi Quốc Tuấn in HCM City stressed that social network service providers such as Facebook, Google or Vietnamese-developed Zalo have a responsibility to prevent the spread of fake news and bogus information.
Since the Law of Cyber Security became valid on January 1, 2019, internet users who spread harmful information and fake news can be prosecuted, he said. — VNS