Have you ever seen a missing person TikTok? As an emerging platform, TikTok has already become a sensation, allowing creators everywhere to spread short content quickly to get likes, views, and subscribers. In recent years, TikTok’s wide audience and ability to share information fast has allowed its creators to also use it for the wide spread of information. In this way, the platform has become an ideal way to quickly circulate information about missing persons.
In 2002, Tiktok user Alicia Kozak was groomed online and subsequently kidnaped by a predator who held her for four days before she was finally recovered. She was 13 years old at the time, and believed the person she was speaking to online to be a boy her own age. In reality, it was a 38 year-old man named Scott Tyree. He groomed her over a year before luring her to meet him. He coerced her into his vehicle, then drover her across state lines from Pennsylvania to Virginia. An anonymous tip came into law enforcement about Alicia’s location. The FBI were able to locate Tyree’s IP address and thus his physical address where they successfully recovered Alicia.
Alica’s story was one of the first high-profile stories on the dangers of the internet and grooming behavior. Predators slide into chatrooms and private messages, ingratiating themselves to minors with the intention of luring them from the safety of their homes and into their captivity, taking kidnapping plots to an entirely different level. It’s a danger that not many parents were aware of at the time, and as a survivor, Alicia saw an opportunity to educate the public about internet safety. She started the Alicia Project, an advocacy group that toured around the nation, speaking to children in schools about remaining safe online.
Since the beginning of her advocacy, Alicia has moved her message online, using the power of the social media algorithm to raise awareness for other missing person cases. By its very nature, TikTok provides concentrated content in a finite amount of time, which can be ideal conditions for spreading awareness about a problem or a cause. A missing person TikTok has the potential to reach thousands—if not hundreds of thousands—of people. When someone goes missing, a focused and strategic effort to share their face and story can go miles towards finding answers in their disappearance. You can learn more about using social media to locate missing persons here.