An Internet mob wanted to rescue a 13-year-old girl. Instead, they terrified her, derailed real trafficking investigations and incited ‘save the children’ violence.

The real Samara Duplessis was sprawled across her comforter, her thumb on Instagram. Summer could drag on in the Detroit suburbs, and the summer of 2020 — her eighth-grade graduation reduced to Zoom, her whole world masked and anxious — was already the most boring of them all, the Washington Post reports.

But it felt even more bleak to 13-year-old Samara, whose parents had been a mess of worry ever since what happened in the spring.

In May, Samara had stuffed a box of Frosted Flakes into her sparkly backpack, slipped out the door and ran away. She had just needed a break from it all, you know?

It was terrifying for her parents, Samara understood that now. The search parties, the police alerts, the missing posters.

They found her after two days, and ever since, everything in Samara’s life was about “rebuilding trust” and “taking responsibility.” All she wanted was for her parents to see that she was fine, and they didn’t need to be so worried.

On this afternoon in July, she felt perfectly safe.

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