Hype and misinformation have caused an “undue” panic and fear on social media about missing teenagers in Washington D.C. The number of teens missing in Washington D.C. has dropped from 2,433 in 2015 to 2,242 in 2016. Although the numbers are decreasing, 2,242 still too high of a number. Rachael Reid, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police Department, said “We’ve just been posting [missing teen cases] on social media more often.” The cause of this viral panic was not was not a misreporting of missing teens, but instead a change in the way the department shared such cases with the public. As a result of posting about the disappearances more frequently, police say they have managed to solve cases faster than before. Police say their recent social media campaigning on missing teens has generated a greater public awareness about an issue that’s existed for many years.
Karimah Bilal, a police spokesperson, said “Because of the number of releases, there have been concerns that young girls in the District of Columbia are victims of human trafficking or have been kidnapped. Even though, according to authorities, the majority of the missing persons in 2017 are considered to be voluntary vanishings, meaning the teens were not kidnapped, thus discrediting fears of a massive human trafficking problem in D.C., these disappearances being covered virally on social media have informed and alarmed people of the very real threat that is human trafficking in this country and providing a way to get involved. In today’s society, a retweet on twitter can save a life.