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Twitter Hoax May Lead to Criminal Charges, New Jersey Criminal Attorneys Report

October 19, 2012 | Posted In Criminal Law - Social Media |

When New Jersey teen Kara Alongi posted a desperate message to her Twitter feed at the end of September, it started a statewide search that sparked a national following and widespread media attention. Alongi’s now-famous tweet: “There is someone in my hour ecall 911,” prompted some 6,000 calls to the Clark County police department and gained her 94,000 Twitter followers.

In the hours after her disappearance, Alongi and her Twitter handle @KaraAlongi became a household name, as Twitter users retweeted the original cry for help, using the hashtag #helpfindkara. The 911 calls police received that night contained conflicting and in some cases useless tips, and the small police station had to sift through information for hours in what ultimately proved to be a fruitless search. Alongi left her house in a cab, bought a train ticket to New York, and called 911 for a ride home on Tuesday.

Alongi, 16, is now at the center of a conversation about Twitter and other widely used social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, where users can post and share information, photos, and, in Alongi’s case, false cries for help. These public posts have become the preferred method of communication for teenagers, and New Jersey criminal attorneys want to make sure that social media users are fully aware of the ramifications of crying wolf on social platforms.

Alongi’s hoax could land her in trouble, New Jersey criminal lawyers say, and the fact that she used such a public platform to cover her true plan didn’t help. Clark police chief Alan Scherb said Alongi may be charged with “creating a false public alarm,” as several police officers, sheriffs, and other officials in New York and New Jersey got involved in the search. “We had to follow up on every lead that came through – whether it was valid or bogus,” he said, which contributed to the confusion surrounding Alongi’s disappearance.

New Jersey criminal attorneys report that Alongi has not yet been charged with a crime, but her hoax may have severe repercussions, not all of them legal. She incited a public uproar on Twitter, and now the hashtag #helpfindkara is being used to condemn her in the social setting, as Twitter followers express disgust that she used them as a cover when she ran away.

The New Jersey criminal attorneys at Helmer Paul Conley and Kasselman represent persons charged with murder, DUI, drug crimes, sex crimes, fraud, assault and other crimes across New Jersey.

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