Missing New Jersey Teen’s Tweet Goes Viral — But Is It a Hoax?

Kara Alongi's panicky tweet sparked a police search and a Twitter hashtag, #HelpFindKara. But authorities now say her abduction may in fact be fake.

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It may be the biggest social media whirlwhind since #Kony2012. But in the case of that web video, well, Joseph Kony really did commit heinous war crimes — whereas in this latest social media firestorm, the tweet that sparked it all appears to be nothing more than a hoax.

A 16-year-old New Jersey girl went missing Sunday shortly after she sent an ominous tweet, which claimed an intruder was in her house and urged her followers to call the police:

[tweet https://twitter.com/KaraAlongi/status/252531321614770177]

When Alongi’s parents returned home Sunday evening in Clark, N.J., they saw that she was missing and had left her cell phone at home, the Star-Ledger reports. But police found no signs of forced entry or burglary and found a door unlocked. The Star-Ledger reports additional evidence suggesting that Alongi willingly ran away from home:

With the help of K-9 units, police tracked her scent from the back door of the house, through a neighbor’s yard and around the corner back onto her block where the scent went cold, Scherb said. Police then found that someone called a local taxi company asking for a car at Alongi’s address around the same time as the tweet, and a cab driver confirmed that he dropped off a person matching the girl’s description at the Rahway train station.

Within a few hours, the typo-ridden, frantic tweet, sent a little after 5 p.m. Sunday, had gone viral. Twenty-four hours later, it had been re-tweeted more than 33,000 times, often paired with the hashtag #HelpFindKara. She has also racked up more than 100,000 followers. Clark police received thousands on phone calls — many of which were false leads.

“It has hampered us because we have to follow up,” Alan Scherb, Clark police chief, told the Star-Ledger. “Unfortunately a lot of leads and a lot rumors that went out there were not true.”

While some Twitter users haven’t yet gotten the news that Alongi wasn’t really kidnapped, many are now reprimanding her for the hoax. And, of course, it wouldn’t be Twitter if people didn’t turn the hashtag into a series of jokes: #HelpFindKara a good lawyer, #HelpFindKara a therapist, #HelpFindKara a new place to live, etc. But Alongi is still missing — even if her departure was voluntary — so anyone with information regarding her whereabouts is asked to contact Clark police.

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