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Momo challenge hoax: BBC NI 'quietly' re-writes story on 'facts' of online 'suicide game'

BBC NI’s headquarters on Ormeau Avenue
BBC NI’s headquarters on Ormeau Avenue

BBC NI was accused of "quietly rewriting" an online story about the Momo challenge after warnings and concerns about the so-called "suicide game" were debunked by charities and social media companies, it has been reported.

The organisation was among the numerous news organisations - including the Belfast Telegraph - to report police warning of the game which was said to challenge kids into committing suicide.

The BBC later published a story on how the "hoax" developed on the back of, it said, "newspaper scare stories". Although that story has since been updated removing the newspaper reference.

Friday's Times newspaper reports a BBC NI online news piece published on Tuesday "stated as fact" the Momo character targeted young children and hounded them with violent images and dared them to self-harm.

"The ultimate post tells them to take their own lives," the article said.

The Times said the article was "substantially rewritten" on Thursday with text added to the story after the organisation was contacted by its journalist. It's understood this was due to the process of editing the article still ongoing rather than the BBC reacting to the newspaper's approach.

A BBC spokeswoman told the paper: “Like other media outlets, the BBC has covered the story of the ‘Momo challenge’ prompted by safeguarding warnings from police in Northern Ireland and children’s charities.

"Our online coverage has subsequently been updated to reflect that fact-checkers now say aspects of the story are a hoax.”

Charities such as the NSPCC and the Samaritans said the Momo reports were fake and YouTube said the content was not on its site - as had been claimed.

The online child protection expert Jim Gamble said he believed the game may exist but claims of the number of cases of child harm it could be linked to were either "fake or grossly exaggerated".

The BBC's clarification.
The BBC's clarification.

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