From the beginning, the disappearance of Kiely Rodni had all the makings of a major national news story. A sweet, smiling 16-year-old vanishes without a trace from a rowdy high school party. Concerned law enforcement announces it’s possible she was the victim of an abduction. Days pass and clues fail to materialize. And, in the absence of details from investigators, the internet rabble fills the void.
I’ve covered nearly a hundred missing persons cases and followed countless more, but I’ve rarely seen an online furor as heartless as the one surrounding Kiely. Within a few days, the internet speculation and conjecture became its own content machine. Some YouTube channels pumped out multiple videos a day, spending hours speculating wildly about the case. One channel even livestreamed an interview with one of Kiely’s friends, a minor who should be protected from, not subjected to, the scrutiny of strangers.