Facebook Cracking Down on Posts About White Vans Used for Trafficking Rumor

Rumors about men in white vans kidnapping women and children for sex and organ trafficking have swept across Facebook and Instagram nationwide this month--even prompting Baltimore Mayor Jack Young to warn citizens Monday about avoiding white vans. However, Facebook is flagging those rumors as false information.

See posts, photos and more on Facebook.

The posts have made rounds on Facebook, with many sharing their own suspicions of white vans. One Philadelphia man shared a photo of a van on November 21, which he did note was probably not a cause for alarm but "is kind of curious." He also noted seeing other posts referencing similar suspicious activity.

In a televised interview with WBAL, Young stated that people should be careful of the "evil" that's going around in the city and the country. "We're getting reports of somebody in a white van trying to snatch up young girls for human trafficking and selling body parts," he said.

"Don't park near a white van. Make sure that you look at your surroundings, and make sure you keep your cell phone in case somebody tries to abduct you and call 911 right away," he advised on WBAL.

.@mayorbcyoung says, "we're getting reports of somebody in a white van trying to snatch up young girls for human trafficking and for selling body parts.

Adding, "it's all over Facebook" & "that's something that our police officers are aware of because its been reported." #WBAL pic.twitter.com/k1y1o96z7T

— Vanessa Herring (@VanessaWBAL) December 3, 2019

A spokesperson from Young's office told Newsweek that the mayor's warning was more of an encouragement for citizens to relay information to law enforcement. "The mayor has consistently talked about the deed for citizens when they know of a possible law enforcement issue to share that information with police," said the spokesperson. "Information, no matter how much on its face may seem implausible, is still information that needs to be shared with the authorities. So, that's what he did. He received information via Facebook. He shared it with the authorities, and then they took it from there in terms investigation."

The spokesperson confirmed to Newsweek that the Baltimore Police have not reported any abductions from white vans, but still encouraged citizens to "let the police be the folks who are charged with determining whether or not something is true or not," after reporting suspicions.

For its part, Facebook is making an effort to reduce the spread of these claims by offering a warning that informs users that these posts are not true. In a statement, the company said: "Posts with this claim have been rated as false by third-party fact-checkers and we're dramatically reducing their distribution. People who see these false posts on Facebook, try to share them, or have already shared them will see warnings that they're false."

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Newsweek that the company is working to increase the speed that posts with false information are addressed.

Creative / Feature: Facebook iPhone mobile app icon Hoch Zwei/Corbis via Getty Images/Getty