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False plea for help: Anibe Alexandra Odoma wasn’t ‘kidnapped in Texas’

A photo of a little girl in a pink top has been shared hundreds of times in Kenya, claiming she was kidnapped in the US city of Houston, Texas.

“Her name is Anibe Alexandra Odoma,” text alongside the photo reads. “She's 5yrs old. She was kidnapped last night by unknown persons. She's from Houston, Texas.

"Please help me forward to / share with as many people as you can."

The image and its request for help was also shared on Instagram in May 2017.

Anibe went missing in Nigeria, but now safe

But US fact-checking site Snopes researched the image in December 2017 and rated it false.

Neither the Houston Police Department nor the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have a record matching Anibe’s description,” Snopes fact-checker Arturo Garcia wrote.

So the abduction did not take place in Houston.

In fact, Anibe had gone missing in the Nigerian city of Abuja in December 2016. Her image was shared online. The original image from Nigeria had two phone numbers.

Snopes phoned one of the numbers and a person identifying himself as Anibe’s father confirmed that the girl had been reunited with her family and “was safe”.

‘Is this true?’

The photo may have been widely shared due to many known cases of abduction in Nigeria.

But repeatedly sharing such appeals for help, out of their original context, may cause unnecessary alarm.

As internet users we should always pause before sharing information and ask ourselves: “Is this true?”

We don’t need to be professional fact-checkers to reduce the spread of false information. Fact-checking can become a way of life. – Africa Check (18/03/19)

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For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

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