The South African Police Service has 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. 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.

On Tuesday, 30 May 2017, 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.

“Many social media posts relating to crime in general and crimes against women, children and vulnerable persons are 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,” said communications officer at Amanzimtoti SAPS, Cpt Van der Spuy.

“Another 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 normalize 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,” added Cpt Van der Spuy.

“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,” said the Acting National Police Commissioner, Lt Gen Khomotso Phahlane.

“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,” said Lt Gen Phahlane.