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Circulating Message Falsely Accuses Pictured Man of Being a Human Trafficker

Outline
Circulating message that features a picture of a man sitting in a car claims that the man is a very dangerous human trafficker who preys on young children and single women and you should alert the police if you see him.



Brief Analysis
The claims in the message are false. The message started back in 2010 as an ill-conceived prank created by a friend of Mark Hendricks, the pictured man. Hendricks is entirely innocent of the accusations made in the message and the nasty prank has had a significant detrimental impact on his life. Sending on messages such as this without first checking their veracity is immoral and irresponsible.

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Example
People please beware of the man in the picture, as he is very dangerous and is in the business of selling young girls and boys. He also preys on ladies that are single to get them into the HUMAN Trafficking circle. If you do see him please just ignore him and get away from him as far as possible and alert the police ASAP. 

PLEASE CIRCULATE THIS PICTURE TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW. THE MORE PEOPLE SEE HIS FACE, THE LESS CHANCE HE HAS OF GETTING TO ONE OF OUR CHILDREN.


Human Trafficker Hoax

Detailed Analysis



According to a message that is currently circulating rapidly via social media, a man depicted in an attached photograph is a very dangerous human trafficker who is in the business of selling young boys and girls. The message warns that he also preys on single women and attempts to get them into his "human trafficking circle".  It exhorts recipients to inform the police if they see the man and asks that they share his picture as much as possible so that more people will recognize him.

However, the claims in the message are untrue. The pictured man, South African resident Mark Hendricks, is entirely innocent of the accusations made in the message.   

The story reportedly started back in 2010 as an amazingly ill conceived prank by Fatima Mohamed, a supposed friend of Hendricks. South African news outlet IOL notes in a June 2010 article about the prank:

Hendricks, who lives in Noordgesig, claimed it was written by his friend Fatima Mohamed, who works for Absa

He said the pictures were those he sent to her and other friends a few months ago. Mohamed sent him and 34 others the email last week, but he said he knew only four people on the mail list.

But the email spread like wildfire - to the point where Hendricks's human resources manager contacted Mohamed's HR manager to complain that someone using the bank's resources had harmed their employee's reputation.

Afterwards, Hendricks said, Mohamed told him that the email was meant to be a joke.
The nasty prank has had a major impact on the man's life. He told IOL in 2010 that he feared for his safety and was taking out a defamation case against the woman for ruining his life.

Several years on, the prank message has apparently resurfaced on social media and is once again circulating rapidly.

This case is a perfect example of why it is vitally important that Internet users check the veracity of the material they repost.  This poor man has had his life severely impacted by the thoughtless actions of one person who was supposed to be his friend. And, his situation has been made immeasurably worse by the thoughtless actions of many thousands of Internet users who have clicked "forward", "share" or "retweet" without bothering to check the truth of what they are posting. This is certainly not the only time that an innocent person has been unfairly vilified in a disgraceful hoax "warning". Such incidents are all too common, in fact.

In this writer's opinion, it is high time that all users of the Internet began to take responsibility for the material they share on their networks. Sending on a post that identifies an individual and accuses him or her of criminal activity without first verifying the truth of the accusations is irresponsible. Given that such false messages can destroy a person's reputation and have an ongoing - and extremely negative - impact on his or her life, sending on such material is also immoral.

Of course, the person who perpetrated this prank in the first place must shoulder the bulk of the responsibility. Nevertheless, every single person who blindly reposted the message in the years since must also take his or her shameful share of the blame.

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Last updated: June 28, 2013
First published: June 28, 2013
By Brett M. Christensen
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References
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