False posts spread panic, waste SAPS resources

2017-06-07 06:00

THE South African Police Service (SAPS) said they have noted with concern the increasing number of false posts on social media about missing, kidnapped and abducted girls and women.

In a media statement by the SA Police, they said that while social media has proven a helpful medium for both the community and the police, hoaxes, fake news and dissemination of false information the SAPS has experienced of late not only spread panic among local communities, but also waste the police’s time and resources.

On May 30 a social media post alleging the abduction of a girl in Naledi, Soweto, by persons in a Quantum vehicle (registration number included) 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.

In the statement, the police say that many social media posts relating to crime in general and crimes against women, children and vulnerable persons are relevant and helpful to the SAPS.

They (the police) also 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 communities.”

Hoaxes and false posts, some published to extract revenge on an individual, to attract attention or 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 that erupted in KwaMashu in KwaZulu-Natal on May 29. The incident began with an allegation on social media of trafficking human body parts by persons who were identified.

It escalated into looting and violent protest actions during which two people were shot, one of whom died. The police were also fired upon as they attempted to neutralise the situation.

The police said that this is a clear example of how the reckless or malicious use of social media can cause chaos and even loss of life.

“While 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,” said former Acting National Police Commissioner Lt Gen Khomotso Phahlane in the statement.

“Just as in the event of a person laying a false criminal charge, those spreading false information through social media, leading to crimes being committed or the fruitless use of state resources, will be investigated and prosecuted or subjected to civil litigation to recover police expenses,” said Phahlane.

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