Several celebrities and media figures used their social media pull this week to draw attention to what they thought was the sudden disappearance of more than a dozen black and Latino girls in the Washington, D.C., area.

Check out the nearly 50,000 retweets of that post since Thursday night. The photo attached to that tweet — which features a girl who was last seen in 2014 — was shared by Def Jam cofounder Russell Simmons on his Instagram feed, but it originated at the site Entertainment for Breakfast and quickly went viral.

One reason it might not have been “a goddamn news story” is that the post wasn’t accurate.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children certainly has a vested interest, but even it is trying to correct the record.

But, the Women’s March statement said “the disappearance of girls of color … is far from new, and it’s on the rise.”

According to NBC 4 in Washington, police said Friday that “at no point in recent weeks have 14 girls disappeared from D.C. in a single day.” The city’s mayor retweeted the story Friday afternoon.

It’s possible that the police department’s increased use of social media to draw attention to young people who are reported missing contributed to the idea that there’s been a sudden rash of kidnappings, when that’s not the case at all:

All of the teens who have reported missing in 2017 left voluntarily, police spokeswoman Karimah Bilal said.

[Commander Chanel] Dickerson said she thinks the department’s new tactic has fueled concerns that teens in the city are being kidnapped.

“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,” she said.

So, the police are in a bit of a no-win situation: by drawing more attention to missing children, they’ve also helped fuel the notion that they’re not doing enough.

Is it possible to be worried about both? We already have at least one senator who brushed off a sensational hoax because she claimed it helped shine “more of a spotlight on the problem” — the problem that wasn’t the actual problem confronting the people who deal with it at street level every day; we really don’t need another senator doing the same thing.

OK, it’s out of hand now.

JJ MacNab of Forbes did an admirable job putting things into perspective.


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