Check your facts before you share
By Michael Brooks
Did you share that post about that missing child? It really makes you sad, huh? It makes you wonder if the child will ever be found. Did you happen to see when the child went missing? Did you check to see if the child has been found?
Sometimes simply sharing a post, even when it seems like nothing bad could possibly come from it, can be harmful.
A few years ago in the U.K. an apparent bereaving father posted about his child that went missing. The post was shared by thousands and the location of the child was finally relayed to the father. It turns out that the child wasn’t missing at all, but the mother took the child and and went into hiding. The reason? The father had been physically abusing both of them. After his post, he was able to locate them and she had to go through the process again in order to get away from him.
Now, lets look at this from another angle.
You see a post for a missing child. You then see the child at the mall and you call the police because this missing child is right there in front of you with her kidnapper. Except – the post that you just saw three days ago was posted in 2014 and the child was found and is actually at the mall with her mother. And now the police are involved and the mother is going to have to explain the situation to them.
I have often wondered how many of these missing kids posts are actually missing kids, or just the parent using their kid to try to go viral. On Sunday a person I know shared a missing kid post from 2013. According to the comments on the original post, the child (a 16 year old) was “found” a mere 30 minutes after the mother put up the missing child post. Think about that. The post is over four years old yet it still remains up. A 16 year old could’ve walked to her friend’s house and the mother suddenly freaks out and puts up a post that her child is missing.
Or, the mother just made it all up to see how many likes and shares she could get.
Some police departments have given out a warning about why sharing these posts can be harmful. The Kindersley, Canadian police department said, “Sometimes the missing children in the posts that you share are not actually missing. They may actually be hiding for their own safety. For example – a parent who has been forbidden any access to their children through a court order might put their children's photos on Facebook and claim them as missing. The other parent and child may be in hiding for their own protection. By sharing these photos, you may be putting a life at risk.
“Always check the source of the photo you are sharing. If the post wasn't originated from a confirmed police source, or comes with a link to a reputable newspaper or media outlet showing that the police are actively searching, then it is likely not legitimate.”
The website pollyklaas.org has a master list of all children that have been reported missing.
Next time you see a missing child post, check the date. Then find out if the child is still missing, if they ever actually went missing in the first place. If they have been found, let the person who shared it know that the child has been found and explain to them why it can be dangerous to continue sharing it. You may even go to the original post and urge the person that posted it to take it down.
Some people will argue that sharing a post isn’t going to hurt anything, but with a little information, you can show them it can be harmful. If the child was missing and has been found, then if nothing else it is a useless waste of time and possible police resources.