DICT creates task force to probe 'Momo challenge' in PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 1) — The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on Friday said it has already formed a task force to address the dangers in cyberspace, including investigating the controversial "Momo challenge."

The group will investigate if the so-called Momo challenge had anything to do with the death of an 11-year boy who allegedly committed suicide.

The task force includes officials from the Philippine National Police, National Telecommunications Commission, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

In a press briefing, DICT Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said the task force will seek the parent's help in looking at the websites the boy visited before his death.

Although the government has already found Facebook groups carrying the name of "Momo," the DICT at this point said authorities still cannot confirm if the challenge exists in the country.

"(Ang mandate) Is to come up with immediate steps that will more or less give a real perspective of the situation. We don't even know as of now if the (suicide) is because of the Momo challenge. If it is a hoax, then let it be a hoax," Rio told reporters.

"This is not going to be a criminal investigation. There is no complaint of any crime yet but even in the absence of complaint the police for public safety purposes will get cooperation of parents," he added.

DICT added there will also be information dissemination drive such as videos and text blasts to warn parents on the dangers of the children's unregulated internet use.

"They are still forming the wordings that will be short but effective but will more or less calm down the parents that you know, this is something that you can act on. This is something you can prevent," the secretary stressed.

Rio added local officials have already coordinated with social media platforms like Facebook in blocking internet links associated with the Momo challenge.

"Momo Challenge" is a game played on messaging app WhatsApp, Facebook, and YouTube. It allegedly encourages children and teenagers to do specific tasks, with challenges starting small like waking up in the middle of the night. It then progresses to more dangerous and violent challenges, such as self-harm and suicide.

Some international news organizations, however, labeled the challenge as a "hoax."

CNN Philippines Correspondent Carolyn Bonquin and Digital Producer Alyssa Rola contributed to this report.