Every once in a while we need a reminder that you can’t believe everything you see on social media. Instagram influencer Katie Sorensen shared a “harrowing” story of how she was able to prevent the attempted kidnapping of her two children in the parking lot of a Petaluma, Calif., craft store. In the months that followed her initial post, the truth came out. Now Sorensen is facing legal action, while the couple she initially accused are looking to have new laws added to the books to prevent this type of thing from happening again, according to CBS News.
On December 7, 2020, Sorensen (who used to use the account @motherhoodessentials) went to the police to file a report about a man and a woman who followed her and her two children around a Michael’s craft store. Sorensen said that the couple commented on her children’s appearance according to a statement made by the Petaluma Police. “She said they followed her out to her car, loitered suspiciously, and then left when noticed by another individual nearby,” the release states.
Except, when she shared the saga with her estimated 6,000 followers, her story was a bit … different. According to Buzzfeed News, the videos (which like her account, have since been deleted) show Sorensen making exaggerated claims surrounding the incident, including one saying that the man had grabbed for the stroller in an attempt to take off with her children.
“I think right now we are so distracted by everything that is going on in the world that we kind of have our guards up about masks and wanting to keep our children safe that way that we are forgetting the most important way to keep them safe, and that is with us and to not have them taken,” Sorensen said at the beginning of the video.
This was at the height of the QAnon-related #savethechildren hashtag trend, which had many believing there was a prevalent threat of people kidnapping and selling middle-class children, luring moms deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of untrue conspiracy theories.
The videos were convincing enough to prompt some of her followers to reach out to authorities and demand something be done. Which, we get, because that sounds terrifying. The new claims prompted police to take a second look at the initial report, which is when they were able to identify Sadie Vega-Martinez and her husband Eddie Martinez. After police circulated photos of the couple, and they came forward — which must have been traumatizing and humiliating — authorities determined that the whole claim was a hoax.
Vega-Martinez told CBS than she is relieved that Sorensen has been charged with making a false report to police, but wishes that she had been charged with a hate crime, as her actions seemed racially motivated.
“[S]he stepped outside of her bubble and she saw two people who didn’t look like maybe the normal people that she interacts with … and we just happen to be of a different skin tone and our dress attire is maybe not what she was accustom to,” Vega-Martinez said. “You combine that with somebody who wants instant fame and glorification … and you end up in this scenario.”
This is hardly the first time someone has made a claim on the internet that turned out to be a lie (remember when Manti Te’o had an online girlfriend who tragically died, but also never existed? Or, like everything leading up to the 2016 election?), but it is a good reminder that when it comes to social media you really can’t believe everything you read.
Fortunately, this interaction didn’t have major consequences for the Martinez family, but that’s not always the case. So, we’re going to use this moment to remind you of some of the cardinal rules of social media. First, if something sounds too good or too awful to be true, it likely is. (Bill Gates was never going to give you money, and he’s definitely not going to do it now that he’s going to have to budget for what we can only assume is going to be some serious alimony.) And second, if a white Karen-esque woman is claiming that POC were somehow involved in attacking her or her children but there is no evidence to support her claims, it’s likely not true.
Although we can’t imagine how terrifying the whole thing must’ve been for the Martinez family (who have five kids of their own at home), we can share that something good may come from this: Vega-Martinez has shared with CBS that she’s working to get the Caution Against Racial and Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act (or CAREN Act, after the typically “Karen” behavior the act is looking to fight) brought to Petaluma.
As for Sorenson, she’s scheduled for a May 13 court appearance.
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