DICT says can't regulate app in deadly 'Momo Challenge'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 28 2019 12:18 PM | Updated as of Feb 28 2019 11:02 PM

MANILA - Regulators do not have jurisdiction over a messaging app used in the deadly "Momo Challenge" that has been blamed for the death of at least one child in the country, the Department of Information and Communications Technology said Thursday. 

Unknown individuals using Momo, a doll figure with bulging eyes and a gaping mouth, encourage children to add a contact on Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp. Momo then hounds the user with violent images and dares. 

An 11-year-old boy this week succumbed to drug overdose after allegedly joining the online challenge.

Unlike China, the Philippine government has no power under the law to block or regulate apps like Facebook and WhatsApp, whose operators are based abroad, said DICT Secretary Eliseo Rio. 

Regulators were nonetheless coordinating with the online platforms regarding reports of cyber bullying and other crimes, he told radio DZMM. 

DICT, he said, also regularly holds forums to teach parents how to monitor their children's online activities. 

Aangat Tayo Party-list Rep. Neil Abayon meanwhile said laws on cybercrimes and bullying Law should be updated. 

"When these laws were made suicide games and bullying on social media were not yet threats, but now they are. I believe government is virtually powerless against these cyberspace threats because of these gaps in our laws," he said in a statement. 

"Right now, the best we can do is appeal to Facebook and Google to take down all of these offensive websites and activities that violate their own community standards because they promote self-harm and suicide, as well as enable criminals to commit cybercrime and harassment," he added. 

Abayon he will invite experts who can help craft bills that will address the issue. 

"We want to do this the right way, so among the people we will invite are game developers, child and youth welfare advocates, the education agencies, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the officials of Facebook and Google," the congressman said.