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24,000 people fooled on Facebook by missing teen hoax

As part of a cruel prank, a hoaxer posted as the family of a Swedish 17-year-old to to rile unnecessary concern. 


Kevin Morris

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 1, 2013   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 2:13 am CDT

It was one of those moments that seemed to show the real power of social networking. Swedish 17-year-old Simon Berneblad had left his home to go shopping and then just disappeared. A whole day passed without a word. So his father posted a message to Facebook:

“Has anyone seen our Simon?” Mats Berneblad asked. “Please share this post so more can help us find him.”

More than 24,000 people clicked the share button. It was a Facebook manhunt. And it was all based on a hoax.

Simon’s father isn’t named Mats. Simon was never missing. Someone was playing a cruel joke on him and his family.

“It feels really terrible, you get scared,” Simon, who said he had no part in the hoax, told Swedish site Nyheter24. “But above all I feel violated, truly violated.”

This is hardly the first hoax to go viral on Facebook, but it’s certainly among the cruelest.

As the hoax spread, the Berneblad home was hit with dozens of phone calls from concerned friends and family.

“The first thing they saw when they logged in to Facebook is that Simon is gone,” Simon’s mother, Helena, told Nyheter24. “It’s been really tough.”

Simon heard that he was supposedly missing from a friend, who called him up to ask if he was OK. He said the police have interviewed him and are looking into the case, and that he thinks it may have been instigated by someone who followed his channel on YouTube, where he’s been trolled before.

“I hope they get to the bottom of who’s behind all this,” Simon said. “The truth is always revealed in the end.”

Meanwhile, the hoaxer hasn’t quit. After blaming the abduction on “foreigners,” he killed off the fictional Simon late Thursday night.

Photo via Facebook

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*First Published: Feb 1, 2013, 4:00 pm CST