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“The news isn’t talking about it which is leading a lot of people to believe it’s either traffickers in the area or a serial killer and they’re not talking about it so they don’t cause a panic,” said the user, “pypcicle,” whose profile reads “someone is hunting women.”

A woman checks her phone while walking in Vancouver in late January. Photo by Francis Georgian /PNG

Michael McLaughlin, a Coquitlam RCMP spokesman, issued a message on Saturday telling people that unproven stories on social media should not be trusted.

“Coquitlam RCMP has received one official report and seen several other online posts,” McLaughlin said. “We have an open mind, but so far there is no evidence to support that any abduction attempt has actually happened. If we see any real risk we will let the public know. In the meantime, we are asking you to stop spreading unproven rumours. Those rumours are scaring people.”

McLaughlin urged people to neither carry weapons nor draw conclusions about crimes from basic information. But he also urged anyone with information about an abduction attempt to contact police.

Alfred Hermida, a professor at UBC’s school of journalism, writing, and media, and the author of Tell Everyone: Why We Share and Why It Matters, said people tend not to share on social media things that provoke fear, with one big exception. That exception is information about predators, sexual assaults and missing persons. And when they’re sharing, the truth of the information is often not front of mind.

“It’s less whether it’s true or false, it’s more your thinking is I want to do this because I want to help and alert my social circles to something that’s happening in our community,” Hermida said.

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