Because most parents have an easier time understanding quantum physics than what their kids get up to on the internet, they can get spooked pretty fast. And the latest fear robbing parents of their already-minimal sleep is the so-called Momo Challenge. An internet-savvy bogeyman is supposedly stalking kids through YouTube videos, preying on their little souls. And while parents are right to be afraid of YouTube, the real danger isn't some mythical monster; it's something hard-baked into the website's code.
As the very recent legend goes, children surfing YouTube Kids can be contacted by Momo, a horrific bird-like woman who has manipulated hundreds of kids into doing creepy viral challenges that end with getting them to commit suicide and upload a video of it to the internet. Except that, of course, the Momo Challenge is bullshit -- what we used to call an urban legend before every troll who saw a Photoshop tutorial could turn YouTube videos into an amateur rendition of The Ring.
Despite the current panic, there's trouble finding any evidence that any child has actually died in this manner. And of course, there are no deformed ghouls tricking kids into self-harm. Internet curses were barely able to get people to forward emails to ten of their friends, let alone cause suicides around the world. But while Momo may not be real, horrible people using YouTube to prey on children definitely are.
For years now, creeps of all calibers have been infiltrating kids videos. And their biggest tool is YouTube's recommendation algorithm, which through some dark SEO magic easily lets them sneak into YouTube's allegedly safe Kids section. This has allowed weirdos to get toxic videos into playlists aimed at preteens, and has even allowed trolls to edit torture imagery and suicide instructions into cartoon clips in order to emotionally scar small children.
Not only that, but YouTube recommendations have also created a community for pedophiles, as its algorithms gladly help them find like-minded pervs in the comment sections of videos of kids going to the beach or doing gymnastics.
This has become such a problem that advertisers have started pulling out, causing YouTube to announce that they will disable comments on most videos featuring children. But the company has made no promises to make sure its own tiny math robots stop acting like drug mules for this evil. And as long as not-so-tech-savvy parents prefer to ignore the problem and instead act like medieval peasants and blame some witch-looking lady for corrupting their children, the dark age of YouTube will keep going.
For more weird tangents and his personal recipes for toilet wine, do follow Cedric on Twitter.
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