Nicola Bulley: Police read family statement after body identified
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TikTok users who spread conspiracy theories surrounding the case of missing Nicola Bulley have been condemned for “harming” the Bulley family. Nicola went missing on January 27 while walking her dog Willow in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.
Despite extensive searches in the nearby river carried out by police and the team of diver Peter Faulding, her body was only discovered over three weeks after she went missing by a member of the public.
In this time period, the case attracted a lot of attention in the media and online. But this led to social media users spreading conspiracy theories that harmed Nicola’s family.
Lorena Taboas, from Common Sense Media, told the Mirror: “Like a game of Chinese whispers, truth on social media can break down quickly.”
Alex Davies-Jones, the Shadow Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, added: “Nicola Bulley’s family, and the whole community, have been seriously harmed by misinformation circulating on social media.
“The Online Safety Bill was supposed to tackle the role of engagement algorithms and business models which give misinformation a platform over trusted news sources, and enable damaging conspiracy theories to go viral.
“However, the Government has overseen constant delays to the bill, and then lost their nerve and watered it down. Without strengthening I’m concerned trolls and conspiracy theorists will continue to have free rein online.”
The Mirror also reported that videos with the hashtag ‘Nicola Bulley’ have racked up 387 million views on TikTok.
In the hours after Lancashire police confirmed a body found in the River Wyre was mum-of-two Nicola, TikTok trolls kept posting untrue and damaging accusations about her family.
Despite the fact that police never suspected foul-play or third-party involvement in Nicola’s disappearance, conspiracy theories continued to spread.
The Mirror cites one example from a user who shared footage of dive expert Peter Faulding talking on GB News about how he had searched the river thoroughly.
She then posted speculation about whether the body could have been placed in the river after the searches were carried out.
Meanwhile, a video from another account used an automated voice to ask: “If she slipped, why was she at the edge next to the river? If she jumped in on purpose to end it all, why would she text a friend for playdate, email her work, go onto work meeting call…?”
TikTok says it removes abusive content – in July, August and September last year over 111 million videos were banned for breaking rules.
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The Mirror also reported that social media users interfered with the police investigation. A TikTok user named Dan Duffy, 36, was arrested and given a fixed penalty notice.
He later posted a video saying: “I’m being arrested on a public order offence. They’ve had an allegation. I was in the search to find Nicola.”
TikTok said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with Ms Bulley’s family and friends.
“We have mobilised additional resources to take action against violations of our Community Guidelines, including removing content and accounts that engage in bullying and harassment, and reducing the potential spread of conspiratorial content by making it ineligible for recommendation to the For You feed.”
During the search for Nicola, police issued dispersal orders for people who were filming in the area where Nicola went missing.
Following the identification of Nicola’s body, the Bulley family issued a statement that criticised the media for their coverage and the treatment of the family.
Broadcast regulator Ofcom has asked ITV and Sky for an explanation after Nicola’s family accused them of directly contacting the family after the body was found despite their request for privacy.
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