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Most people now have social media accounts on lots of different platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Our social media accounts contain personal information about us and our loved ones, where we live, what we spend our money on, how we use our spare time, what we do for a job, and our interests. They also connect us to friends, family, colleagues, people we went to school or high school with, and people we might know less well. This might include friends of friends or people we have met on training courses, for example. Because of the information they contain that can be accessed by a wide network of people, it is important to think carefully about what is on your profiles and that of the hostage.
What do we need to think about social media
As soon as you learn about the kidnapping, consider closing your social media account as well as that of the hostage. At the very least, reset privacy settings to limit the number of people that can get access to photos and comments on these accounts. Hostage US can help you to do this.
Don’t forget LinkedIn profiles, which might contain information that could be harmful to the hostage, such as military connections, affiliations with certain organizations, and might imply that you or the hostage are wealthy or influential.
Due to the speed of social media, you might hear about new developments in the kidnapping via that route rather than from your government contacts.
How do we close a social media account?
If you need to close a social media account, contact Hostage US and we can help immediately.
How do we increase privacy settings on a social media account?
Social media platforms, like Facebook, have options to allow you to limit the people who can see your profile, view your photos and access information about you. Hostage US can help you to change your settings.
We have also produced a simple guide to allow you to do this for yourself. Each of the platforms also contains information about privacy settings.
What should we do if we are subjected to bullying or harassment on social media?
Some families have been victims of cyber bullying on social media. This can be very distressing. If this happens to you, contact Hostage US for help. In some cases, cyber bullying should be referred to law enforcement.
Should we be using social media to monitor what is happening?
You might want to monitor social media and the Internet for news about the hostage, the group holding them or the country where they have been taken. This is understandable. However, given the amount of information it can become overwhelming. It might be advisable to give yourself ‘time out’ from the Internet and social media each day and try to avoid this before you go to bed as it can stimulate your brain, making it harder for you to sleep.
What should we do if images or videos of the hostage appear on social media?
In some cases, images or videos of your loved one might appear online and on social media. It can sometimes be possible to have these removed if they breach the terms of service of the social media or search engine companies. Sometimes it will not be possible and this can be very distressing.
Hostage US can help when this happens. You can also complain directly to the companies concerned and ask them to take action to remove the images or videos.
Should we limit children’s use of social media?
Children and young people have grown up using social media and often communicate with their friends that way. It can therefore be difficult to ask them to close their accounts entirely.
It can help to talk to them about why it is important for them to increase their privacy settings and think differently about what they post. You should discourage them from writing about the kidnapping on their social media accounts and help them to understand why this could be dangerous for the hostage or distressing for them should this be used in newspaper articles or media reports.