Mass hysteria hits after child abduction rumors spread

Social media is a blessing in most instances, but it also revealed its darker side this week. That is after a series of posts, both voice messages and text messages caused a public hysteria, alleging child abductions at three schools in Walvis Bay.
Three men, supposedly traveling in a black BMW were responsible for child abductions at these schools. All these messages were unfounded and are nothing else than rumour- and fear mongering. These messages also caused mass frustration, as thousands of Whatsapp users shared these messages on groups and on their contact lists. Many users also copied the messages and added more unfounded information, leading to even more misleading and useless information.
The three schools’ names will not be used in this article, as it would perpetuate the false information doing the rounds.
The Namibian Police in Erongo, through its Regional Crime  Investigations Coordinator, urged the public to delete these messages from Whatsapp and to also refrain from sharing these messages.
“It first started last week as a series of voice messages. Then it went to picture messages and even video clips, fanning the fire of misinformation”, a senior police official said. Adding, “a well-known South African current affairs television program in the same time reported on human trafficking and the killing last week of a 9-year old girl in Windhoek at the hands of a rapist/murderer is believed to have been behind the mass hysteria as people were looking for platforms to let out their fear and frustrations over senseless violence and mistreatment of children”.
“We as a public should know better. Whenever an event such as a child abduction, murder or any other form of violence against children becomes known, it would be through official sources like the police public relations office, either at head office level or regional level. When we hear voice messages alleging abductions, we must become weary, as in all instances the person never reveals the source of his or her information. We must make sure first before sending on these messages”, this senior police official said in a reprimanding tone.
Official sources at the schools mentioned said they take any incident where violence or mistreatment of children take place, very serious. The information nonetheless caused an embarrassment and the schools had difficulty to balance fact from fable and to ensure parents remain vigilant around the safety of their children without becoming victims of fear mongering and mass hysteria.
“We as a school and our parents will always put the safety of our children first. Every day of the week every hour of the day. We remain vigilant and we don’t need incidents like these the past two weeks where social media send the wrong information into the world and cause us frustrations and embarrassment, the official source said on condition of no names to prevent any further back lashes.

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