Police slam social media posts claiming Pretoria building is used for human trafficking

Police have slammed a flurry of social media posts alleging that a building in Pretoria is being used for human trafficking as "fake news".

In a statement on Tuesday, police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said the building, which is on Johannes Ramokhoase Street in the city centre, was a residential building accommodating police officers.

"Therefore, the posts suggesting that this building is being used for criminal activities is misleading and untrue," he said.

"People are urged not to post these messages any further, as such messages tend to create panic and uncertainty among citizens."

Naidoo added that anyone caught spreading "fake news" was likely to face charges of defeating or obstructing the course of justice.

"In instances where resources are being used to respond to such fake news, every effort will be made to recover the costs of such responses."

Police said, while human trafficking was indeed a reality and that people were affected by this phenomenon globally, the spreading of disinformation on the matter was not only a crime, but also showed a lack of sensitivity to those affected by human trafficking.

"We continue to appeal to anyone who has any information on the person responsible for the creation and spreading of this message or of any other crime to please contact the SAPS."

From an analysis done by News24, it appears that the messages concerning the building in Johannes Ramokhoase Street as being a hotspot for human trafficking started on 5 September.

The hashtag #PutSouthAfricaFirst also appears in several of the tweets.

News24 previously reported that the Centre for Analytics and Behaviour Change revealed key narratives around xenophobia being curated and amplified by a dedicated network of connected users.

According to the report, social media discussions on xenophobia were being manipulated and that around 80 dormant accounts sprung to life around 27 April.

The emergence of the fake news as declared by police also coincided with protest action by the EFF at Clicks stores around the country.

Several tweets regarding the building Johannes Ramokhoase Street were also used to detract from the EFF protests on social media.

Protests at Clicks stores around the country erupted on Monday following a call to action by EFF leader Julius Malema.

The call to action to protest and close stores down, followed an advert that went viral on Friday depicting images of white women's hair, which was labelled as "fine, normal and flat", while pictures of black women's hair were called "dry and damaged".

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