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Morning Update: Mo Momo Mo Problems

How the Momo Challenge shows we don’t know what’s real anymore, flooding in California, and a Baby-Sitters Club reboot. Your BuzzFeed News newsletter, March 1, 2019.

Posted on March 1, 2019, at 7:28 a.m. ET

The Momo Challenge is a lesson on amplifying internet issues into existence

A YouTube video of Peppa Pig is suddenly replaced by a distorted face with bulging eyes, and a creepy robotic voice begins speaking, saying “Slice your leg and you’ll never meet me.” Another creepy video depicts a slow zoom-in on the character as it sings “Momo is going to kill you.”

Those videos — combined with a wave of reactive media coverage and alarming Facebook posts — have panicked parents and made them concerned that a so-called Momo Challenge could cause their kids to hurt or even kill themselves. Parents on social media and news coverage of the story say the videos have emotionally traumatized some children.

It remains unclear how many Momo videos actually exist, whether they have actually caused kids to harm themselves, and just how widespread a phenomenon it is. It’s also possible that media coverage has helped amplify the Momo Challenge into existence, creating a vicious cycle that encouraged people to post more Momo videos, sparked panic, and even caused police departments to issue warnings both about the challenge itself and the media’s promotion of it.

Elsewhere in our tech dystopia:

👉India and Pakistan came close to the brink of war this week. But even as the nuclear-armed neighbors carried out airstrikes and Pakistan captured an Indian pilot whose fighter jet was shot down, a full-blown misinformation war about the conflict raged on the internet.

👉YouTube is disabling comments on some videos featuring young children in response to public and advertiser backlash following the discovery of an organized pedophile ring sharing disturbing content on the platform.

Flooding in California

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

A man paddles through the miniature golf course in Guerneville, California, after the Russian River flooded. Catastrophic floods are turning towns into islands in the state, stranding Northern California communities and damaging thousands of homes.

Snapshots

The House Intelligence Committee wants to question the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer. The request comes following testimony from Michael Cohen that suggested Allen Weisselberg has information relevant to hush money payments and other fraudulent activity in which the organization may have been involved.

Jay Inslee is running for president as the climate candidate. “We’re the first generation to feel the sting of climate change. And we’re the last who can do something about it,” the Washington state governor said in his announcement video, pitching himself as the best candidate to tackle the worsening climate crisis.

Congress just got a lot closer to rejecting Trump’s national emergency to build a wall. Sen. Lamar Alexander has come out against it, possibly becoming the crucial fourth Republican needed for Congress to formally rebuke the president.

At least nine infants under the age of 1 are being detained by US immigration authorities, a complaint says. The Texas detention center where they are being held lacks adequate medical care, immigrant advocates said in the complaint.

A Baby-Sitters Club reboot is coming to Netflix. There’s no word yet on casting, but all five main characters are making a return, and Ann M. Martin, the books’ original author, will serve as a producer.

Weekend Reads

Venezuela’s crisis is pushing women to have illegal abortions. Contraceptives are in short supply in Venezuela, with most pharmacies sold out, so it’s largely up to black marketeers like Beatriz to supply women with them. Despite their exorbitant price tag — on the street, $1 gets you a month’s birth control, but that represents a week’s salary — the pills remain highly sought after. And without access to proper health care, women are forced to undergo abortions, which are illegal and punishable with up to two years of jail time in this majority-Catholic country. Karla Zabludovsky’s portrait of Venezuela shows how women are bearing the brunt of the country’s crisis.

“I’m a person, not the harbinger of some cultural apocalypse.” Meet the transgender Texans fighting for their rights in this excerpt from Samantha Allen’s Real Queer America: LGBT Stories From Red States. “Early on in my transition, when I was less confident in my appearance than I am now, figuring out where to go to the bathroom on a long road trip felt like planning a bank robbery.”

Joe Biden’s waiting out his 2020 decision in comfort. If there’s any clue to what Biden might decide as he once again wrestles very publicly with a run for president, consider how he spent the last 10 days. The former vice president held conversations. He’s sticking to safe, friendly, and predictable ground at a time when the 2020 presidential race offers none of that.

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