As outrage and panic around the Momo hoax reduces, it’s worth taking a few minutes to think about what happened before we all forget. By grabbing headlines across the world, Momo has shown just how quickly and easily we can be distracted from ‘real’ threats online.
What is a hoax?
Unlike malware or hacking, a viral hoax doesn’t cause any damage to your computer. And when handled correctly, a hoax is usually completely harmless.
Take Momo for instance. According to media reports, harmless YouTube videos like Peppa Pig had been ‘hacked’. Some unknown person had inserted footage of a woman-like figure singing a song containing threats to kill the child and their family. They were then encouraged to send a message to an anonymous WhatsApp account, triggering a series of increasingly violent and dangerous challenges.
The problem is that none of these compromised videos has ever been found on YouTube. There is one video of the ‘Momo song’, but this exists separately from YouTube – and it could only be found by deliberately searching for it.
But rumours about hacked videos spread like wildfire as panicked parents tried to find – and block – scary videos. Videos that didn’t exist.
Ultimately it was the fear of Momo, rather than Momo itself that caused the problems – and that is the hallmark of an internet hoax.
Protecting against hoaxes
The hallmark of a good hoax is that it sounds believable, much like fake news. We know that someone could embed scary clips into a YouTube video. And we know that some internet trolls may do exactly that.
It was no great leap of logic to believe early reports that people really were making Momo videos. Which leads us to the first protection – a pause.
Take a pause
The Momo panic quickly spiralled out of control because no one took time to check if the story was true. The Momo story has been circulating online since the middle of 2018– but most people hadn’t heard of it. A quick search of fact-checking websites like Snopes.com would have revealed that the Momo challenge videos were a hoax for instance.
So before you shut off your kids’ internet access, or start sharing official “warnings” on Facebook, take a breath and check the facts for your self.
Have “the talk”
It is a great idea to discuss internet safety regularly with your family. Technology and trends are under constant change, and your kids are probably plugged into much more than you realise.
You should encourage your kids to talk to you about what they see and do online. And they must be free to tell you when they run into problems, from scary videos, adult content or cyber-bullying.
Filter the worst content automatically
Some content – like pornography – will never be suitable for children. Rather than hoping they won’t be exposed (they will), you should use tools like Panda Dome to help block unwanted content automatically.
The automated filtering tools included with Panda Dome can block out dodgy websites and videos to keep your kids safe online. And because the filters are updated daily, they will also be protected against the next hoax that turns out to be a real threat.
To learn more about content filtering and how to protect your family, download a free trial of Panda Dome now.