Facebook, Twitter propel search for missing 6-year-old Isabel

Word of Isabelle's disappearance has spread worldwide because of social media.

Facebook, Twitter propel search for missing 6-year-old Isabel

CREATED Apr 23, 2012

Reporter: Claire Doan

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – Volunteers for the search for Isabel Mercedes Celis, the 6-year-old who went missing Saturday, have taken their grassroots effort to the world wide web, where the story has taken on a life of its own through social media.

Updates, shares and tweets are helping the search for Isabel gain traction nationally and even internationally.

Milk cartons, radio announcements and billboards – no longer; what’s getting the word out now when it comes to cases like this is social networking. In a matter of days, they’ve been able to reach at least several thousand people.

With a few taps of the keyboard and a few clicks of the mouse, a message can be seen worldwide in a matter of seconds. That’s the beauty of the internet.

“We can work magic. It’s a bunch of 0s and 1s. You can arrange them correctly and you’re good to go,” said Steve Raw, who set up the “Find Isabel Celis” Facebook page, now with 3,300 “likes” and counting.

One of the banners he posted to find the 6-year-old got nearly 300 shares so far. The stats attest to the power of the people who care and just how quickly social networking can spread the word.

“Right now it’s international. I’ve actually seen a post from Japan. So it’s all over the world now,” said Dan Rivera, another volunteer.

And that’s the idea – to have the search spread all over the world, all over this community, to supplement the manpower and resources it takes to pass out fliers.

Twitter has played a big role too. Charlie Sheen retweeted the search for Isabell to his 7 million followers from Twitter powerhouse Jessica Northey, a Tucsonan who tweeted it to her 358,000 followers.

However, Tucson Police said social media have proved to be a double-edge sword.

“Social media can work very well for us, but it can also work against us. You have to be careful where you’re getting your information from. There’s a lot of misinformation being put out there through some of these social media,” said Lt. Fabian Pacheco.

Pacheco also mentioned that police have received some tips through social media and are following up on any possible leads.

But Raw said he’s not trying to step on TPD’s toes – just trying to get as many people as possible to help find Isabel. And he believes social media can transform the way the community helps deal with missing kids cases.

“It can be a precedent … for how we deal with these types of situations in the future through social media. This can be a breakthrough in how we deal with it,” Raw said.

Another measure of community interest in this story is through KGUN9’s own website, with the top five most viewed articles on the site about the search for Isabel. And at last count, the story has received more than 15,000 hits since Saturday.