Facebook hoaxes about missing UK children use old photos from the US

26 April 2023
What was claimed

A photograph shows a child who has been found in the UK and the user needs help locating their parents.

Our verdict

The posts are hoaxes. They all use near-identical text claiming a child has been found in multiple different locations, and use old photos of children in the US.

Multiple Facebook posts claim that a child is lost in the UK and appeal for help to find their parents. However, the posts are hoaxes and use old photographs of children from the US.

The posts use almost identical text, claiming that a child has been found “walking behind a home” and that their mother’s name is Wendy. But there are multiple versions of the posts that use different names, photos and locations. 

One post, which appeared in a Rochester buy and sell group, says: “This baby (Chloe) was found today walking behind a home in #rochester , we can't find her parents, the neighbours don't know her or how she got there. She says her mom’s name is Wendy Let's bump this post so it may reach her family, thank you. [sic]”

Other posts using the name Chloe and the same photograph appear in community groups for Alvechurch (Worcestershire) and Belfast. A reverse image search shows that the photo used in these posts comes from a Facebook post made by a charity based in Louisiana, US, in August 2022 about a donation of car seats. 

Other versions of the hoax use the same text, but a photograph of a little boy that they claim is named Jonathan. They also appear in community groups across the UK, including in Featherstone (Wakefield), Kettering (Northamptonshire), Deysbrook (Liverpool) and Basildon (Essex). These posts use a photo of a child that comes from a 2020 local news article about a lost boy in Iowa, US. 

Another variation of this post uses the same text, but with a different photo of an older child who is also allegedly called Jonathan. Full Fact found that this photo was originally used in a 2017 post published by Fox 5 Atlanta, about a missing child in Clayton County, Georgia.  

Another useful clue that these posts are hoaxes is that nearly all of them have their comment sections disabled, which prevents people from calling out the posts as fake. Derbyshire Police has previously warned social media users against sharing Facebook posts about missing people with the comments disabled. 

Full Fact has written many times before about similar hoax posts, such as missing children, abandoned infants or injured dogs.   

Hoaxes pose a risk to user engagement with local community news because groups can become overwhelmed with false information. As a result, genuine posts may be ignored or dismissed as false. 

We have written to Meta expressing these concerns and asking the company to take stronger action in response to this problem. 

Image courtesy of Book Catalog

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