Posts on social media allege news outlets have remained silent about dozens of children found in Ohio, Georgia and Michigan. The operations – recently in Ohio and Georgia, but in 2018 in Michigan – were in fact all covered by various news organizations.
A post shared over almost 100,000 times on Facebook here reads: “25 children found in Ohio! 39 children found in Georgia! 123 more found in Michigan! Media SILENT Why are these not huge stories?”
Other examples are visible here , here and here .
This claim appears to speak to the prevalence of narratives presented by QAnon, a group best known for spreading a conspiracy theory about a fake child-trafficking ring at a Washington pizzeria ( ?here? , ?here ,? here ?).
The claim likely refers to 25 children found in “Operation Safety Net,” a 20-day mission by the U.S. Marshals and authorities in Ohio to locate endangered children in August of this year.
According to local media reports ( here , here , here ) , 25 Ohio children between the ages of 13 and 18 were located in several cities in Ohio, including Cleveland and Akron, as well as in Miami, Florida.
CBS reported here that a quarter of the children rescued were cases related to human trafficking or prostitution.
Other outlets that covered the story are visible here , here and here.
The 39 children mentioned in the claim likely refer to “Operation Not Forgotten”, a joint sweep by U.S. Marshals and other Georgia state and local agencies during August 2020 ( here ).
Dave Oney, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals, told Reuters via email that “the majority of the children were located in Georgia, but others were found in South Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Florida, Kentucky and Michigan.”
The operation resulted in safely locating 13 children and the rescue of an additional 26 “critically missing” children, as well as the arrest of nine criminal associates. According to the U.S. Marshals, fifteen of these 39 minors were sex-trafficking victims.
Various outlets covered the story, some examples visible here , here , here and here .
Reuters recently clarified the claim that the children in this operation had all been found inside a trailer in Georgia, here .
The claim refers to an operation in Michigan on Sept. 26, 2018. At the time, the operation triggered confusion and also led to misinformation, according to local news reports ( here ).
As reported by The Detroit News here , the eight-hour sweep was led by state police, though U.S. Marshals also participated.
All but four of the 107 children located during the operation were found safe with parents or guardians. Three were identified as possible sex trafficking cases.
At the time, a press release by the U.S. Marshals (which is no longer available online) reported that 123 children “were identified and recovered safely”, but the total included 16 cases from a previous sweep.
The release also led to a series of news reports that referred to the sweep as a sex trafficking “sting” here. The Detroit News’ crime reporter George Hunter wrote about the confusion in a Twitter thread here .
When asked about this case, Oney told Reuters that the headlines were “a bit misleading” and said that while the U.S. Marshals “were able to help close these cases, that doesn’t mean we rescued 123 children.”
Other media reports on the operation are visible here , here , here , and here
Some iterations of the claim here also falsely refer to “60 children found in Delaware”. Reuters previously debunked this claim here .
Partly false. 25 and 39 children were indeed recently located in operations in Ohio and Georgia but contrary to the posts’ assertion, media did cover these stories. Media also covered the location of 107 reportedly missing children in Michigan, though that was in September 2018.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work ? here ?.????
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