Social media users defend ‘kidnap’ posts

Police spokesman Warrant Officer Alwin Labans
Police spokesman Warrant Officer Alwin Labans

NELSON Mandela Bay social media users who triggered a public frenzy when they posted what turned out to be hoax information of a schoolgirl who had been abducted, raped and murdered, have defended their decision to do so despite not obtaining verification.

However, at least one has acknowledged what mayhem can be caused by posting false information.

This comes in the wake of Monday’s incident which sparked widespread panic and violent protests.

Rumours of a seven-year-old pupil from Alpha Primary School being grabbed and dragged into bushes at Helenvale quickly escalated to her being raped, murdered and her body being found, leading to hundreds of people taking to the streets and threatening to set the bush alight and kill the perpetrator. The hoax was revealed when an extensive police search, involving the K9 unit and helicopters, as well as a head-count at the school, revealed no missing children and no sign of any incident.

People with illegal police scanners could also face serious criminal charges following the hoax that spread rapidly across social media.

Precision Tow-in Services employee Christiaan Beer was one of the first people to post information on the “missing” girl on Facebook, sharing it with the Accidents and Traffic PE page whose administrator, Cindy Leat, shared it with the page’s thousands of followers.

In addition, a further 65 000 followers of the Public Servant News Network (PSNN) page received the false reports.

The Humewood community policing forum’s Annelize Jerling – a Herald GM Citizen of the Year finalist – put the report on PSNN.

Beer’s initial post just before 10am on Monday read: “Child grabbed this morning on her way to Alpha Primary. It’s a Grade 3 pupil. People busy checking the bushes in Ext 6.”

Three hours later, he reported that the girl’s body had been found and she was raped before being murdered.

-Riaan Marais

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