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Police's search for missing boy finds he existed only on Facebook

A 2-year-old boy is reported missing in France by his supposed great aunt. It takes some time before police realize the boy and his father are mere Facebook constructs.

Look carefully. The Belvietv/YouTube; screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

There's been quite a merging of our virtual lives with our real ones.

Sometimes, we're even confused ourselves as to which is which or whether one matters more than the other.

Still, when police in France were told that a 2-year-old boy was missing, they believed this must be real.

Chayson Basinio was reported missing by his great aunt. Or someone who said she was.

As the Guardian reports, the woman insisted that the boy hadn't been seen for a week and she believed he'd been kidnapped from a supermarket parking lot. She allegedly said that the boy and his mother had become separated.

Police in Yzeure in central France then went to a judge and began searching. They even sent divers to see if they could find his body in a lake.

However, as the inquiry went along, police began to realize that the supposed great aunt's story might have a few loose threads. And even looser words.

At some point, though police had seen a Facebook profile of Basinio's supposed father, Rayane, no traces of either him or his 2-year-old could be found in what used to be called real life.

Which made officers wonder whether someone was trying to be funny, or vengeful, or simply not quite all there.

Eric Mazoud, the public prosecutor in the French town of Cusset, told the Guardian: "The inquiry for kidnapping and sequestration has obviously been redirected into one of reporting an imaginary crime or offense."

The alleged great aunt has now been arrested. It is said that her daughter and a cousin, who are both minors, were the ones who actually created the fake account. The pictures of supposed father and son are alleged to merely have been culled from the Web.

How odd, though, that the police didn't take more realistic steps to discover who the boy and father really were before launching a search. It appears they just took the great aunt's word for everything.

In the case of a missing boy, don't the police visit his home and search his bedroom, in an attempt to find indications of fact and truth?

Don't they bother to talk to the parents? Didn't they at least try to interview the mother, from whom the boy had supposedly been separated?

Don't they, in fact, use the Web and public information to help piece together profiles of those involved?

How is it that police, a judge, and a prosecutor could all have been fooled into believing that once you see someone on Facebook, they must be real.

Two years ago, Facebook estimated that 8.7 percent of accounts were fake.

You might expect Facebook to underestimate the figure. You might also expect, two years later, that more people hide their true identities in order to participate in the world's most bizarre bazaar.

Nothing on Facebook is real, unless it can be verified.

So please, next time you're on Facebook, look twice at those baby pictures, the beautiful pictures of new lovers, and the images of marvelous holidays abroad.

My great aunt tells me Photoshop is easy.