Editorial: The power of Facebook, a friend and a foe


Facebook can be a great tool.

It puts people in touch with childhood friends, allows people to contact loved ones on the other side of the world in real time and let’s not forget the hilarious memes to share.

However it can also have a negative side. Facebook has been in the news this week after it came out that the data of 87 million users was improperly shared with consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

But it has also caused local controversy.

A report that a child was abducted from Stockland Green Hills circulated rapidly across social media on Sunday, so much so that it triggered a police investigation.

Police told The Mercury that even though many people posted about the alleged incident, no formal report was made. Detectives had to proactively investigate the situation after being made aware of the information posted on Facebook.

This is not the way investigations work.

Inquiries by Stockland and Port Stephens-Hunter police resulted in no evidence of an abduction.

Stockland said the incident was not fake and confirmed they did receive a report of a missing child, however they were satisfied that there was no abduction attempt.

The situation shows how easily misinformation can be spread on Facebook, so people must be careful of what they post.

The same goes for sharing – spreading wrong information can be just as harmful as posting it.

The Mercury heard about the post and put out several lines of inquiry on Monday to find out what happened – but the information could not be corroborated.

As a verified news organisation, this is our job, and as there was not enough evidence to prove there was an abduction attempt we did not run the report. 

A statement was soon put out by police alerting people that investigations led them to believe no one had attempted to abduct a child and there would be no further police action at this stage.

In this digital age, we all have a responsibility when it comes to social media.

This incident should be a lesson for all to watch what they post and share, and to check reputable sources when posts like it spread across social media.

The Mercury endeavours to verify any and all information we publish across our channels, as do many other official organisations.

So before you post or share, question where the information comes from.