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Because we talk about this puppet with alarmism

Loading player In recent days, several Italian newspapers and news sites have spoken in rather alarmist tones of Huggy Wuggy, a puppet that appeared in various YouTube and TikTok videos which, according to some, could be dangerous for children and risk generating in them anxieties and fear. The postal police also issued a statement on the matter. More likely, however, the story of Huggy Wuggy is another case – as were those on Blue Whale and Momo Challenge – of phenomena that have gone viral mainly because they are talked about in alarmist tones, and around which a lot of panic is generated.

Huggy Wuggy is a blue puppet with a big mouth full of sharp teeth. He looks a little creepy, due to the fact that he was born as a villain character in the horror video game Poppy Playtime, recommended for over 12s.

The protagonist of the video game is the former employee of an old toy factory who returns there after many years and finds it abandoned and inhabited by animated and evil toys. One of these is Huggy Wuggy, a puppet that is only apparently tender and affectionate, with velcro on its legs that allows it to be attached to the neck of children as if he were hugging them, but who is actually a brutal killer. The video game was released in 2021 and had a great success all over the world, and Huggy Wuggy and other characters had been selling plushies and other items.

– Read also: What is the “Momo Challenge”

The alleged danger of Huggy Wuggy had begun to be talked about in the United Kingdom, and in particular from Dorset, a county in the south-west of the island: at the beginning of April the local police had released an alarm on the online circulation of some videos depicting a creepy puppet who urged children to commit violent acts.

Collecting some reports of worried parents, the police had said that these videos had reached several children too young for that kind of content, and had therefore invited parents to better and more closely monitor their children's internet browsing. The police report concerned in particular a video, widely circulated on YouTube and TikTok, of Huggy Wuggy singing a song with rather disturbing lines: “I could hug you / forever / until you take your last breath.” In any case, no case had been detected of children who had committed violent acts because of the song, which however had nothing to do with the video game, where Huggy Wuggy does not sing. The song was in fact created only later by some fans and inserted in a video uploaded to YouTube.

However, the video had received a lot of attention, so much so that the local newspaper that had reported the police alarm, DorsetLive, had headlined the article on the “dangerous songs” sung by Huggy Wuggy. Furthermore, according to what was reported by the newspaper, the Dorset police had said that the videos of Huggy Wuggy were freely accessible by YouTube Kids and by TikTok for Younger Users, that is the YouTube and TikTok channels for children under 12 and 13 years.

In reality, as explained by the well-known debunking site Snopes, there is no evidence that the video of the song had appeared on these channels, also because its creator had set the diffusion only on the version of YouTube free from parental control, where anyone under the age of 12 should not be able to navigate without parental supervision. On YouTube Kids, Snopes writes, there were just a few tutorials showing how to draw the Huggy Wuggy character.

With very similar mechanisms, alarmism over Huggy Wuggy has also reached Italy. A very worried post published by a woman on social networks contributed to give great visibility to the puppet, and in a short time it became viral, in particular due to its diffusion by many parents. In the post, quoted by the debunking sites Butac and Bufale.net, the woman said she saw a video in which the puppet Huggy Wuggy sang the Italian version of the English song, and she said she was extremely worried.

In the post, the author accused those who had shared the video of “using children” to spread the content and advised parents not to indulge “the fashions of the moment”, always watching over their children's videos and games. As in the case of the United Kingdom, however, the song had nothing to do with the video game and the contents to which the post referred were not present on the YouTube channel reserved for children, where if you search for “Huggy Wuggy” this screen appears:

Also in this case, in short, what had been judged dangerous by the parents was actually an adult content, which the children had been able to see by browsing on parental control-free platforms without parental supervision.

To increase the alarmism on Huggy Wuggy was added a notice from the Postal Police who, probably in the wake of the reports, mentioned the video game Poppy Playtime recommending with parents to supervise the internet browsing of their children. The Italian newspapers have in turn taken up with great emphasis the notice of the Postal Police, also citing the English example in support of the alleged danger of the puppet: «The English investigators:“ don't show it to your children ”», was the headline of Repubblica.

In the Italian press, the popularity and spread of the puppet has been attributed to the videos of Me Contro Te, a very popular couple of videomakers known above all for making videos for children on YouTube. Huggy Wuggy actually appears in some of their videos, mostly as a generically bad character but not deliberately “scary” like in the video game. Even in this case, however, we are talking about content not available on YouTube Kids.

– Read also: The legal battle for Snopes