When terror strikes most people rally and try their best to help the victims.
The people involved steal someone else’s photo, post it online and claim their relative or friend is missing and possibly a victim of the attack.
— Blink (@PedicalEtho) June 3, 2017
They usually ask people to share their post and spread the word, and in the heat of the moment many people do – without pausing to question whether it’s a legitimate post.
In the midst of the chaos in London this weekend, someone posted a photo of a young boy on Twitter with the caption: “My brother was on London Bridge and won’t call back. I am terrified. I heard tires squealing and screaming!! This is him! Please help!!”
The post was shared nearly 1000 times before it was pointed out that the boy pictured was 14-year-old American rapper, Matty B.
Is this matty b? Cause that is not funny.
— Laura (@Lc2907) June 3, 2017
How dare YOU for faking it in the first place. If their is some people who don’t know it’s fake and try to find him, that’s a waste of time.
— #LegallyBarbara (@blue_jazz_boi) June 3, 2017
Another person shared photos of their brother ‘Charles’, who they said has Aspergers and was talking to them from the London Bridge at the time of the attack.
— Lilo (@Emothian) June 3, 2017
This tweet was shared over 2000 times before someone noticed the Twitter user had made a similar plea after the Manchester attack. According to The Mirror, the photos of ‘Charles’ seem to be screenshots from YouTube videos called ‘Chuck Shriek’.
In the wake of the Manchester terror attack, Melbourne mum Rachel Devine woke to find her phone flooded with messages asking if her 12-year-old daughter, Gemma, was safe.
Gemma's photo was one of thousands shared online of people who were supposedly ‘missing’ after the terror attack, however Gemma was safe and well, and attending school in Melbourne.
My Daughter is in the black hat / Red lipstick. She is safe in Australia. Someone stole her photo.
— Rachel Devine (@sesameellis) May 23, 2017
While we do know that trolls are posting fake missing person alerts, what we don't understand is why. Why would you want to add to the chaos? Why would you want to divert precious resources from where they are genuinely needed? Why would you make something like this up at a time like this?
If you're unsure whether a 'missing persons' post is legitimate, do your research before you share it. Take a closer look at the profile of the person who created the post - you can often tell whether they're a real person or a troll. Like in the case of 'Charles' the user might have track record for creating fake missing persons posts.
The Mirror also suggests you check the replies on Twitter or the comments on Facebook or Instagram - if you're unsure of the legitimacy of a post, the chances are someone else has questioned it too.
You can also do a reverse image search in Google and check whether the photo belongs to someone else - this is how some clever Twitter users figured out that Matty B's photo was being used.
Is he your brother? pic.twitter.com/M489EN8WeS
— Ch. Shafique Wains (@ChShafiqueWains) June 3, 2017
And, of course, you should always look to legitimate sources such the emergency services or missing person networks, rather than a stranger on the internet.
The bottom line? If in doubt, don't share it - you could be doing more harm than good.
Have you ever shared a missing persons post on social media that could have been fake?