People go missing for many different reasons, but often it is during a difficult time in their life. Publicity is created with the aim of trying to find them, to make sure they’re okay and safe. Removing the publicity once they are no long missing is very important to enable them to move on with their lives.
When a missing appeal is shared online, it can stay there for a long time, even after the person is found. It could be found when searching for that person’s name, by future employers, friends, or even dangerous people wishing to cause harm. Sharing a photo, a full name, age and sometimes location, can be necessary to find someone quickly and safely. However, once they have returned it could actually put the person more at risk.
It is not illegal to go missing; there is no reason for this information to be available after the person has returned, and they should not be punished as they have done nothing wrong. It can have a severe impact on people’s confidence, wellbeing and mental health if this information remains public. It could also impact their chances of finding employment.
You may have made your own posters, or created a social media page or website. Make a list of everything you did yourself, so that you can work through it to close or remove it. You’ll also want to track down any other publicity that went out via other people, agencies or organisations. This might feel like quite a large job, so think through what help you could get from friends or family. We know that even if someone is found, it may not be the end of the story, and your focus may be elsewhere.
To help with this, there’s 4 lists you may need to make to give you a plan of where to go, who to contact and if possible, who in your circle of supporters you could task with parts of this.
We recommending following these steps, and then using the guidance below to remove publicity.
Did you use a missing person poster? Start off by having a think about where you sent physical copies of the appeal, or who you asked to lead on sending copies by email. Removing them may involve having to walk around your local community, or calling people. This is your community, and they will want to be supportive, especially if they were invested in trying to find your loved one. But, you may still find it emotionally difficult to speak to people about what has happened. Think about other ways of informing them, such as asking a friend to help, or sending an email with a request not to follow up with questions just yet.
Start by noting down every social media platform you think your loved one’s appeal featured on. You may need to ask friends and family members to tell you where they shared it too, Any posts you made, or shared, delete them. Ask friends and family to do the same. We delete appeals from our Facebook and Twitter pages as soon as we know somebody has been found. The police should do the same, but if you notice that your person’s appeal remains live, speak to your police contact and ask for it to be removed. If you started your own blog site, website, Facebook page or anything similar, it’s up to you how you close it down, but this should be done as soon as possible. This will likely be impacted by what happened to your loved one, and how you feel about talking to others around the outcome. If you have a site or group moderator, it’s worth giving them the update and asking them to share it on your behalf. Then, take a break from the page and focus on taking care of yourself. People who follow the page will be invested in your outcome, whether it is a positive or negative one, so it’s worth distancing yourself for a bit and giving yourself the space to process everything.
Read more about removing a digital footprint. ADD LINK
Media outlets have a safeguarding responsibility to remove this information as soon as is practicably possible. If an article exists, search the news outlet’s website for contact details. Call or email, and ask to speak to the a news editor. Sometimes, an article will name the author, in which case you can try to contact them directly. Occasionally, journalists will not want to delete an article. Explain to them why it is so important for your loved one’s wellbeing, and if you are struggling, direct them to us.
Make a list of anyone who you called, sent a Text/WhatsApp message to, or emailed directly. Basically, anyone who is unlikely to find out they no longer need to keep looking or sharing the appeal of your loved one from the other updates you’ve already given. Let these people know however you can, and remember it’s okay to ask people to give you space and time to deal with whatever has happened.
Who else has been involved? List them too. Along with any contact details you can think of, and send out a mass update. This might include getting in touch with us, or any other groups such as neighbourhood watch. This might be a small list, as it’s likely anyone else would be covered in the other lists. However it’s worth having a last think to make sure you’ve told everyone to remove the appeal.