June 1 2017 – THE SA police on (today) Thursday warned against the growing trend of false posts on social media about missing and abducted women and children, saying this caused panic in communities.
Shops belonging to foreigners were looted in deadly violence in KwaMashu in KwaZulu-Natal this week after false reports spread on social media that children were being kidnapped for the sale of their body parts.
In a statement Thursday, police management said it noted with concern the increasing number of false posts on social media about missing, kidnapped and abducted girls and women.
“Social media is a helpful medium for both the community and the police,” the statement said. “However, the hoaxes, fake news and the dissemination of false information which we have experienced of late not only sows panic among our communities, but also wastes the police’s time and resources.”
Police cited a social media post from Tuesday which alleged the abduction of a girl in Naledi, Soweto, by persons in a Quantum vehicle (registration number included) which then went viral.
“After an immediate and thorough investigation, the owner of the Quantum was traced and could prove that the vehicle had been parked and immobile over the period of the alleged abduction. When the originator of the post was traced for clarity, she could not substantiate her story,” police said.
It added that many social media posts relating to crime in general and crimes against women, children and vulnerable persons were relevant and helpful to the SAPS. “After all, we participate on social media platforms in order to interact with communities and obtain their views and inputs. Policing is a consultative and collaborative process and the SAPS has no intention of serving and protecting in isolation from our communities.
“Hoaxes and false posts, some even maliciously published to extract revenge on an individual, to attract attention or to make a lover jealous, not only divert the police’s stretched resources but can also have far-reaching repercussions.
“An example is the recent violence which erupted in KwaMashu in KwaZulu-Natal on Monday night, 29 May 2017. The incident began with an allegation on social media of trafficking in human body parts by persons who were identified. It escalated into looting and violent protest action during which two persons were shot, one of whom died.
“The police were also fired upon as they attempted to normalise the situation. This is a clear example of how the reckless or malicious use of social media can cause chaos and even the loss of life.”
Acting National Police Commissioner, Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane said: “Whilst state resources are being utilised to verify and investigate hoaxes, the police are being diverted from performing their constitutionally mandated duties of preventing, detecting and combating crime and this is an untenable situation.”
He added: “Just as in the event of a person laying a false criminal charge, those spreading false information through social media, leading to crime being committed or fruitless use of state resources will be investigated and prosecuted or subjected to civil litigation to recover police expenses.” –ANA