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Social media may have slipped up with #missingdcgirls. But it's helping thousands more.


Social media may have slipped up with #missingdcgirls. But it's helping thousands more.

WATCH:  Social media had a lot to do with a perceived epidemic of missing black girls in the nation's capital. Experts say it did more good than bad.

An Instagram post reporting that 14 black girls had gone missing in Washington, DC over a 24-hour period wasn't actually true, but Robert Lowery, the Vice President of the Missing Children Division at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, says the media shouldn't be so quick to write the crisis off as fake news.

"I think that what happened was the public got a full picture of what we deal with every day here at the national center and the numbers of missing children we’re looking for," Lowery told Circa.

Here's what really happened

Late last year, the DC Police made the decision to post all missing children to its social media pages.

Someone saw the department's increase in postings and took that to mean there was an increase in the number of missing children, when in fact, the number of missing children in DC has gone down over the years.

Nevertheless, people picked up on the story, prompting the start of a viral hashtag.


The #missingdcgirls hashtag gained more than four million impressions on Twitter in less than two weeks, according to Keyhole, a real-time hashtag tracking company.

The NCMEC says it shares about 200 missing children photos to its Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages each week.

"One of the most powerful tools we have in our arsenal is our ability to engage the public as the eyes and ears of law enforcement when children are reported missing," Lowery said.

The center attributes its 98 to 99 percent recovery rate to a shift in policies and new technologies, such as social media.

The reports now are saying that we had a fake news story. I think that's incorrect.
Robert Lowery, VP of the Missing Children Division

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