NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – The Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office is alerting social media users in Norman about a false post made.  

Nowadays, a lot of police departments are shorthanded, and taking focus away from solving crime to look into false rumors could cause take away from what’s important.  

People sometimes tend to believe these types of posts online. That was the case for hundreds who shared a Facebook post in the Norman Community Page stating, “Be alert and aware, there have been two young females abducted in Norman within the last few days.” 

Over 600 people have shared this post since it was posted earlier this week, along with several comments affirming the rumor.  

We confirmed with the Sheriff’s Office that this is not true. The missing females who they were talking about were actually not abducted.

One of them just ran away and is now at home safe.  

“We do take these very, very seriously. But, these are just two cases of teens that, you know, had their problems at home and decided to run away,” said Hunter McKee, public information officer, Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office.

While social media can help police, it can also be used against them when false information like this is spread because it takes resources and time away from the department when having to confirm if something like this is true or not.

“You don’t want to stir the pot necessarily… That’s why we would like if somebody sees something suspicious instead of just posting it immediately to social media and kind of starting these rumors, just call us… We’ll look into it and we’ll make sure to notify the public if it is a human trafficking case,” said McKee.

Hank Jenkins Smith, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, says people sometimes tend to make posts or share misinformation or disinformation because it’s a topic that they are interested in, or the person is wanting validation from users engaging with the post.  

“If you post something inflammatory, that’s likely to really get a make a charge for somebody else who is shares that belief. You’re more likely to get hearts and thumbs ups and all of the other components of social media that we use to reinforce participation,” said Hank Jenkins Smith, OU professor.

Smith says people are repeating misinformation because they care about some underlying narrative, such as in this case, victims of alleged human trafficking.  

“The best way to correct the information is to say that ‘human trafficking is a serious problem. We are very fortunate that this piece of information is not correct. And there are these people were not abducted. However, don’t undervalue the importance of the problem area.’ So now the person who’s heard that message, who has that underlying narrative doesn’t have to feel defensive. They know they validated essentially their concern while decoupling it from the false information. And so remembering that people are really working from sort of a deeper story when they’re attaching to these individual facts or pieces of misinformation,” said Smith.

The Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office still takes abduction and human traffic cases seriously, but they do not want posts like this to be taken too far that represent false information as fact.  

Police worry this confuses people and could cause undue panic. 

The Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office urges you to contact them if you see anything suspicious, especially before posting it online, and let the police be the ones to share this type of information.