'You thought "boots with the fur" was appropriate?': Toronto Police say oddly worded Tweet about missing teen was intentional

Missing teen in Toronto. She was last seen Wednesday November 2, 2022 in the Landsdowne Avenue and Dupont Street area. She was wearing an oversized Levi's jacket, brown pants and black boots with fur. The wording of the Tweet used by Toronto Police has drawn backlash from the public. (Toronto Police Service Handout)
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Toronto Police are facing questions online about the wording of a Tweet containing information about a missing teenager.

The description for the unnamed 14-year-old-girl focuses on the location where she was last seen and the outfit she was last seen wearing. This includes an “oversized Levi's jacket, brown pants, black boots with the fur”.

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The Tweet was followed up with the statement: “In the absence of the "Right To Be Forgotten", we are exploring ways to minimize a missing person's digital footprint today for their better tomorrow. Name, weight and other info that may not help to locate someone has been withheld in favour of memorable identifiers.”

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Some people in the comments wondered about the peculiar wording of “black boots with the fur” (which references a popular Flo Rida song, "Low"), and whether it was minimizing the seriousness of the situation.

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In an email to Yahoo News Canada Toronto Police social media relations officer Victor Kwong said the wording was intentional.

The description of the missing girl’s clothing was given by the family as 'black boots with fur. My choice to add the word 'the' in the social media platform was to make it stand out, memorable, and catch people’s attention. We have had missing people also wearing boots with fur before. They have not received the same amount of interest as this case.Victor Kwong, Toronto Police social media relations officer

The Right To Be Forgotten is regulation in the European Union, which is meant to protect how personal data is collected, processed, and erased. There is no similar efforts here in Canada.

As to why the child’s physical appearance and name wasn’t used in the missing person description, Kwong explains he is sympathetic to people who reach out to police to have their information taken down from the internet, especially those who’ve previously gone missing.

One of the tactics police are exploring is to limit the information they release that they believe do not contribute to finding someone - such as average height - or might cause embarrassment, like publicizing someone’s weight. By withholding these details, they make the person less easy to search online in the future.

“The picture (attached to the Tweet) would do most of the ‘speaking,’” Kwong explains. “Instead, the Twitter character count could be spent on more memorable identifiers such as visible tattoos and clothing.”