On September 11 2020, a Facebook user shared the following screen recording of an apparent attempted child abduction, captioned “Hold tight to your babies. 😭😭 They are coming for them”:
That had been captured from the Instagram account of @TheInformedMama209, published around the same time:
Although neither video included context about the date, location, or nature of the events seen in the video, the Instagram post included commentary from the poster that every woman should “be concealed carry,” implying the events might have occurred in the United States.
On Reddit, the clip was shared to r/instant_regret, r/martialarts, r/iamatotalpeiceofshit [sic], and r/PublicFreakout. Two of those four posts, including the version on r/PublicFreakout, provided a location for the incident — South Africa:
‘Attempted Florida Kidnapping’ in the News
Exacerbating confusion over the events depicted was a circulating September 11 2020 article, titled “WATCH | Man arrested after ‘trying to snatch girl’ at Florida pizza shop.” That article’s featured image was captioned:
Scenes of a 24-year-old man allegedly attempting to kidnap a child at a pizza shop in Florida.
However, the first few paragraphs of the same reporting — as well as the article’s domain — indicated the incident did not occur in the United States:
A 24-year-old man was arrested after he allegedly attempted to kidnap a four-year-old girl at a pizza shop in Florida, Johannesburg.
In a video widely circulated on [September 11 2020], a man is seen jumping onto the balcony at the restaurant and quickly heading towards a young girl sitting with two women.
He then proceeds to grab her, but within seconds a security guard approaches and rescues the victim.
A separate September 11 2020 article on a South African news site noted that the incident took place in “Florida, Roodepoort in Gauteng, South Africa.” That story included additional information about the alleged assailant and possible causes for the incident:
Private Investigator Wendy Pascoe said it was not an attempted abduction, but a “continuation of an initial incident of Assault GBV (gender-based violence) that started on the street and was not captured on camera”. A witness told Ridge Times: “He was walking along the street banging on cars. Then he just started running up to the girl. It didn’t look like he was trying to take her, he was really trying to hurt her. His eyes were dead…”
The suspect allegedly claimed afterwards that there are others like him and that he was working for a syndicate run by foreigners from another African country, however Pascoe said in a post on Facebook that the suspect is a “known heavy drug addict”.
Viral Facebook (“Hold tight to your babies. 😭😭 They are coming for them!!!”) and Instagram (“Every single woman should be concealed carry”) posts depicting a purported kidnapping attempt in Florida spread during the 2020 social media child trafficking panic without context. Compounding the confusion was the fact that the incident depicted occurred in a Florida — in South Africa. South African news outlets reported that the incident did occur on September 10 2020, the suspect was apprehended. While the viral clip bolstered social media rumors about trafficking, local news suggested the alleged assailant was possibly psychologically disturbed — not part of a “trafficking syndicate.”