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A thief and a ring: When online hunts go viral

Social media can help locate people, but the right person may not always be found


A social-media manhunt was launched last week for an alleged thief who stole from a cabby, and it ended with the arrest of a 27-year-old man.

Last Wednesday, Twitter user Syafiqa Amanina posted a 140-second video of a young man sitting in the back of her father's taxi.

The man, whose face is clearly seen, surreptitiously reaches out and grabs what seems to be a money pouch. He is then seen rifling through the contents of the pouch and putting some items in his pocket. He also leans forward to speak to the driver, before paying the fare and exiting the cab. This supposedly took place on July 23.

Ms Syafiqa's video was retweeted more than 13,000 times.

"(The) case was reported (to the police). Anyone could be his next victim," the 21-year-old student said.

It was also reposted to Facebook through another user going by the name of Firdaus Nur. The video had more than 1.7 million views within two days.

Ms Syafiqa Amanina posted a video last week showing a passenger in her father's taxi allegedly stealing from what looks like a money pouch. The footage spurred netizens to track down the details of a man they believed was the thief. Police are investigating and have arrested a suspect. PHOTO: SYAFIQA A./TWITTER

The footage spurred many netizens to action.

In a matter of hours, social media users began surfacing the Facebook page of the supposed suspect, who deactivated his account shortly after.

Ms Syafiqa said she was surprised at the speed at which the supposed thief's identity was made known.

"I don't have many followers, but I was taken aback by how fast people acted," she said.

"Singapore is a really small place. It's hard to run."

She said she was aware that the witch-hunt might incriminate an innocent party, but she was worried other drivers might fall prey to the same thief.

Her family received information about the suspect's full name, a photograph of his NRIC, his home address and contact number.

A breakthrough came last Friday, when the police said the identity of a suspect believed to be related to the video had been found after extensive inquiries and the aid of CCTV images.

He has been arrested, the police statement said.

Investigations are ongoing.


Facebook user Kelly Roberts got more than she bargained for when she enlisted the help of netizens to find the rightful owner of a ring she had found.

Ms Kelly Roberts' post of a lost ring was shared globally, but it also attracted plenty of wild claims, many made in jest. PHOTO: KELLY ROBERTS/FACEBOOK 

In her post on July 21, Ms Roberts said she found the gold ring while snorkelling in Rhodes, Greece.

"It is heavy, worth a bob or two," she said, "but more importantly (it) has a special engraved message inside. This ring has sentimental value to someone. Let's see if we can return it to its owner."

Ms Roberts, a lecturer at Swansea University, said all the proof she needs is for the supposed owner to tell her what the engraved message is.

"I will post it (to) anywhere in the world," she said.

The simple call for help has taken a life of its own, getting more than 350,000 likes and shares.

It also attracted more than 37,000 comments, with many users declaring that they had shared the post in their home countries - from Ireland, Canada and Puerto Rico to the Philippines and Singapore.

But going viral is a double-edged sword.

Instead of legitimate requests, Ms Roberts' post is full of messages from people wildly claiming to be the owner, many of them in jest.

At first, Ms Roberts took the time to reply to the messages being left in the comments section, but she soon stopped after the post got popular.

What is worse, after all that sharing and chatting, the ring has yet to be reunited with its owner.


Heard of "sharenting"?

It is used to describe a parent's act of sharing his or her children's images on social media.


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In its latest report, British communications regulator Ofcom said that more than half (56 per cent) of British parents surveyed avoid this practice.

Almost nine in 10 of this group said the main reason is that they want their children's lives to remain private.

Among the parents who do share photos of their children online, about 80 per cent said they share only things their children are comfortable with.

Only 15 per cent of these parents had concerns about what their children might think when they grow up.

The figures were published in the organisation's annual report, which is based on an online survey of 1,000 adults in Britain.

The media watchdog also found that selfies are the most shared images among those aged 18 years to 24 years.

These youngsters can take as many as 20 photos before settling on one to post, compared with the average of six photos.

Older users preferred uploading holiday photos.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 06, 2017, with the headline 'A thief and a ring: When online hunts go viral'. Print Edition | Subscribe