How to help with the search

Someone is reported missing every 90 seconds in the UK. This equals 353,000 missing incidents every year. This is an alarming statistic that is often underreported on in the media and we understand that many people will be shocked to learn how many people are affected by a disappearance.

Upon learning this number or more about the issue of missing, you may be interested in helping with the search and bringing awareness to the people who are missing. Helping with the search is the easiest way to make a difference and simply sharing an appeal could help reunite a missing person with their loved ones. In 2019 – 2020 alone, 2,106 people we launched publicity appeals for were found safe and well.

This page will advise on the best practice to follow when helping with the search and sharing a missing person’s information online to ensure their safety, and the safety of their family, is prioritised.

The right to be forgotten 

We believe that every missing person had the ‘right to be forgotten’.

This means that once a missing person has returned home, we will remove all publicity of them and do our best to help them remove their Digital Footprint. We will also not publicise when an individual has been found but simply remove closed cases from our website.

We understand that this can be frustrating to the people who have invested time in the search, but this allows the individual to focus on adapting to being back at home and processing what happened while they were away, including any harm that they may have come to. We understand from talking to people who have returned home that further attention to their case could be overwhelming and put them at risk of going missing again.

Things to consider

  • Every missing situation is unique and there are many reasons that someone may leave home. These can range from mental health issues to relationship breakdowns to domestic abuse. Depending on the situation, it may not always be appropriate for the missing person to receive publicity and, in some cases, could put the missing person at further risk. For example, we will not launch a publicity appeal for someone who is escaping domestic abuse as it could put them at risk.
  • We will only launch a publicity appeal for a missing person if the police have requested it or the family have been in contact and asked us to. All missing people we appeal for also have an open police investigation. Sharing the appeal of a missing person who has not been reported to the police could mean the correct safeguarding has not been put in place for the missing person and could be breeching the privacy of the missing person’s family.
  • We will always remove all publicity of the missing person once the case has been closed ensuring their ‘right to be forgotten’. Removing the appeals as soon as the case is closed also stops misinformation being spread online. Unless the appeal of the missing person is removed once the case is closed, many people who see it will assume that the person is still missing and continue to share it on their social platforms. If you do see an appeal online that is not from a police or Missing People account, you can double-check if the individual is still missing by contacting the police conducting the investigation or you can check the appeals page on our website. We try to keep our website as up to date as possible and remove appeals as soon as the police have confirmed the person has been found. However, on occasion we will have people on our website who have been found as it can sometimes take a few days to receive confirmation from the police.

So how should I get involved?

Due to the complexities of the issue of missing, we would always recommend sharing our appeals straight from our website, Facebook, or Twitter. This makes sure that all the above concerns have been considered and that the correct procedures have been put in place to protect the missing person and their family.

We understand that you may wish to start your own social media account to share appeals. If so, we would still recommend that you shared appeals via our website, Facebook, or Twitter. This means that once the person is found, the appeal will be removed from our website/ social media and the link will no longer be active, so you do not need to worry about removing the appeals yourself.

As mentioned above, keeping appeals online for closed cases could also lead to people believing the individual is still missing and they may continue to share it.

How should I share an appeal to Instagram or other platforms where you do not currently post appeals?

If you would like to share an appeal to a platform where we do not currently do publicity, and it is not possible to share to it via our website, we would recommend downloading the poster of the missing person.

Do not take a screenshot directly from our website as you will not know when the case has been closed.

Posters of missing people can be downloaded on their appeal via our Help us find page. You will be asked to put in your name and email address prior to downloading the poster. This poster can then be shared if on a PC or laptop or you can take a screenshot if on a smart device and share the image.

We will then contact you via email once the person is found asking you to remove the poster. Our posters also contain all the confirmed information for the missing person including where they are missing from, their age at disappearance, a photo, and what you should do if you have information.

Respecting families with a missing loved one

When sharing missing person appeals, it is important to consider their families left behind and how they could be affected by what they see online. We ask that you keep this in mind and refrain from speculating about what could have happened to the missing person and only post the information provided on our website.

Information and sightings of missing people can be submitted here or you can contact our Helpline via 116 000 or 116000@missingpeople.org.uk.