How a 119-word local crime brief about a wanted suspect in Waco and Central Texas, written in late January, become Facebook’s most-shared story of 2019 so far, is almost a mystery no one can exactly explain.
The text was published by a 32-year-old web editor, Aaron Savage, for a chain of local radio stations in Central Texas on their Facebook account. But in a short time it became viral quickly becoming US 105 FM’s most-shared post ever. It beat out other extremely viral stories. Neither a researcher for NewsWhip nor a spokesperson for Facebook and CrowdTangle could fully explain this. The text started with a geographically ambiguous headline: “Suspected Human Trafficker, Child Predator May Be in Our Area.” The subject was about a suspect who was wanted for aggravated kidnapping, human trafficking and sexual abuse of a young child.
It can be supposed this was a consequence of the changes in Facebook’s algorithm designed to prioritize news from “trusted” and “local” sources, and to boost content shared by users’ friends and family over content published by professional Facebook pages. Fact is within days, the story was being shared by much larger pages, including the Longview Police Department, Donald Trump Republic 2016, and Good Times With Trump 2016-2024. The story received not only shares but also large numbers of comments.