On Sunday night at around 6:15 p.m., New Jersey 16-year-old Kara Alongi tweeted "There is someone in my house call 911".
The apparently panic-garbled tweet went viral over night, as millions of Twitter users urged followers to help find the kidnapped girl by tweeting hashtags and liking Facebook pages.
But now the police say the whole thing was a hoax, and Kara actually ran away voluntarily. "We do not feel any foul play was involved," Clark, NJ police chief Alan Scherb says.
There was no sign of disturbance at the house, and police talked to a taxi driver who says he drove someone matching Alongi's description from her house to the train station. Police are still looking for her but say she's not in any danger. She left her phone at home, so she's not even able to see how she has earned more than 95,000 followers in a single night.
If Alongi was hoping to get attention with the stunt, it worked: "#helpfindkara" trended nationally, and Alongi's last tweet currently has over 32,000 retweets in an otherwise typical mix of teenspeak and emoji. Police say they've fielded more than 6,000 calls about Kara. As it became clear Alongi wasn't actually kidnapped, the hashtag #helpfindkara became a favorite of jokers, who have posted pictures of themselves looking for Kara under their beds.
The massive freakout about "#helpfindkara" is not hard to explain. The hashtag is perfect for conveying the essence of true-crime stories. And the urge to action of "#helpfindkara" means you are basically a monster if you do not spam your friends with Kara's face. But now that she's activated the hive mind's Protect and Serve mode over a hoax, Kara is about to face the full brunt of that same digital mob's Seek and Destroy setting: "This kara girl went from the most worried about girl on twitter, to the most hated," tweeted another user.