Amateur investigators on social media attempt to solve Gabby Petito’s disappearance

Sarasota County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Gabby Petito was no stranger to the social media universe, leading many people to dig deeper into her online content.

“A lot of people were saying the captions didn’t add up. The writing didn’t add up on the last two posts especially didn’t match her vibe,” said Hannah Matthews, a TikToker from Utah.

Matthews said she first heard about this story on her local news.

“I didn’t think many people were talking about it yet so I just decided to make a Tik Tok saying this is happening.” Her posts blew up, garnering millions of views. “So many people were either stitching them, commenting or just viewing them.”

Matthews is one of many a part of this online effort, working to find out what happened to Gabby Petito.

“The more eyes that are on that flyer and the more people that see that photo, understand the circumstances of the missing person report that may call in,” said Ráchael Powers, an associate professor of the Department of Criminology at USF.

Powers says crowdsourcing is normal during law enforcement’s investigations, but this is on another level.

“This is one of the first cases where we really see in the public spotlight just what social media can do with regards to potentially solving a case or tracking down evidence,” Powers said.

On the flip side, Powers told 8 On Your side this type of access to information can overwhelm investigators.

“Someone has to sort through all of those tips to find out which ones are really relevant and can help the investigation versus which ones are well-meaning but perhaps are barking up the wrong tree.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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