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Missing Teen Devon Ward Has Been Located and is Safe



Outline
Circulating social media message claims that 14-year-old Devon Ward is missing and asks users to share his photograph and description in the hope that someone has seen him.

Brief Analysis
Devon Ward was reported missing on April 17, 2013 and the alert message below was posted to social media. However, subsequent messages report that Devon was found safe and well on April 18.  Thus, sharing the message is no longer necessary and may be counterproductive.

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Detailed Analysis
The message, which has circulated via social media websites since April 2013, claims that 14-year-old Devon Ward went missing from Horseheads High School. The message asks that users share Devon's photograph and description across their networks in the hope that someone has seen him.

The message describes a real person. Devon Ward was reported missing on April 17, 2013 from the town of Horseheads, New York. Police were alerted and the case was aired via local radio. And the above missing person alert for Devon was posted to social media.

Thankfully, however, Devon was found on 18th April. Devon's mother Lisa Davis posted the following message to her Facebook page:

We found devon. He is safe and sound at the police barracks in horseheads. thank you to everyone who helped spread the word. We greatly appreciate all the help and support. We have such a wonderful community!! Please share the status, so that people know he's been found. Thanks

She also posted a revised version of the missing person alert with a "LOCATED SAFE" stamp and the following message:

LOCATED SAFE! Thank you to all that helped to get the word out. Missing 14 y/o Devon Ward has been located safe. Please share!

Unfortunately, the original missing person alert for Devon continues to circulate months after the boy was found. The message does not include a specific date for Devon's disappearance – the only time frame it mentions is "today" – and this has caused many recipients to think that the case is still current.

Social media is certainly a rapid and useful method of disseminating information about missing persons. However, outdated missing child reports can cause ongoing problems, not only for the missing child and his or her family, but also for police who must field continued queries and false sighting reports about the case.

It is therefore important that people check that the information in a circulating missing person alert is accurate and up-to-date before they share it with others. While some such alerts may be legitimate, others may be outdated or contain misleading information about a case. And some may be outright hoaxes.

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Last updated: August 16, 2013
First published: August 16, 2013
By Brett M. Christensen

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