The West Bengal administration has started taking precautionary steps to combat a threat posed by the “Momo Challenge”, an online game, after two people allegedly committed suicide as they had received invitations to join the game. An unidentified government official told PTI on Sunday that the administration has issued directives to police stations, and asked educational institutes to watch the behavioural patterns of students.
“The Momo Challenge is growing everyday,” he told the agency. “After the Blue Whale Challenge, now we are facing this killer Momo Game Challenge. Links of this ‘game’ are getting circulated mostly through WhatsApp. We have alerted officials in the districts to keep a tab on this matter.”
An account by the name of “Momo” on Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube challenges users to communicate with a particular number, and complete a series of tasks which ultimately cause death, The Times of India reported. The game uses a haunting image of a woman, her face distorted, taken from the work of Japanese artist Midori Hayashi. If the user refuses to follow the instructions, he or she is subjected to threats of fake allegations, hacking of social media accounts, and is shown disturbing images.
The account seems to be connected to three numbers in Japan, Mexico and Colombia, and several small islands in Latin America, a government official said. He added that the administration has asked the cyber cell to investigate all the numbers.
The Momo Challenge has allegedly led to the suicide of two youths, an 18-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman at Kurseong in Darjeeling district, on August 20 and 21, PTI reported.
On August 21, Jalpaiguri resident Kabita Rai received an invitation to play the game, following which she approached the police. A college student from Jalpaiguri district, identified as Pritam Saha, has been detained in connection with the case, DNA reported. Saha downloaded the app and sent pictures of the game to several people, Jalpaiguri Superintendent of Police Amitabh Maiti said.
Another woman, an information technology professional, received a similar invitation, following which she filed a complaint with the Kolkata Police’s cyber cell. “I chose not to reply to the invitation as advised by one of my friends,” Rajashree Upadhyay said. “On Thursday night I found the invitation on my WhatsApp. I knew about the ‘game’ and because I have a child I was scared.”