TikTok conspiracy theories: Unsubstantiated claims that paedophiles are behind the Amber Alert system

Freepik/@ user5391341

Original article (in Serbian) was published on 13/01/2023

In the last few days, a video from the TV appearance of the famous conspiracy theorist Sasa Borojevic has gone viral on TikTok, in which he says that he is against the introduction of the Amber Alert system for quickly notifying citizens about missing children because paedophiles are allegedly behind it. For years, the organization of Igor Juric has been advocating for the introduction of this system, who was a guest with Borojevic in the aforementioned show recorded two years ago, actively denying and disputing his baseless claims, but those parts were cut and removed from the recording. The video was published on the account called Vostani Serbie and in just one day it was seen by about half a million people. Apparently, many people believed in the things that Borojevic said, even though his claims, made in those few minutes, were completely incorrect or unfounded.   

It has been shown more than once that association with paedophilia is a quick and efficient way to discredit someone or something, without any need for evidence. We often witness this when it comes to the LGBTQ population, and the latest in a series of discredits is happening these days and concerns the Amber Alert system for quickly finding missing children.

A two-minute video with the inscription “AGAINST AMBER ALERT” appeared on the TikTok account “Vostani Serbie”, where it has been seen by about half a million people since yesterday (Thursday, January 12). In the video, the theorist of various conspiracies, Sasa Borojevic, talks about why he is against the introduction of the Amber Alert.

“Do you know that John Podesta and the Clinton family are behind the Amber Alert? Trump accused them of child trafficking and human trafficking (…) I am interested in the safety of our children, who cannot be taken care of by someone accused of human trafficking. If it is the Clinton family that was accused by the President of America and John Podesta, what about you people? That can’t be right”, Borojevic said, among other things, in this video.

These flat-out claims, without a single proof or connection to reality, apparently convinced thousands of people in Serbia that the Amber Alert system is, to say the least, suspicious. The video was liked by more than 20,000 people, and in the comments, people tell Borojevic that he is right, “respect”, and “well done”.

In these few minutes, Borojevic, a man with whom Raskrikavanje has dealt more than once, managed not to utter a single correct or well-founded claim.

First of all, what is an Amber Alert?

The Amber Alert system was introduced in the USA after the disappearance of nine-year-old Amber Hagerman from Texas, who was kidnapped and killed in 1996 while riding a bicycle. The Amber Alert system is named after her and is also an abbreviation for “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response”. From 1996 until today, this method of informing citizens about a missing child has been gradually adopted by all 50 states of the USA, as well as 31 other countries around the world.

In various countries, the system has different names, but the essence is as follows: in certain cases of missing children, the system of informing people about what happened is urgently activated – TV and radio programs are interrupted, people receive notifications and SMS messages, information is published on the Internet, ATM screens, electronic signs on highways, digital billboards. The point is that quickly after the police determine that the criteria for activating the system have been met, the citizens are informed about what happened, what the child looks like, as well as any information about the potential kidnapper.

“Announcements through different media (…) can reach citizens who will remember the child’s face and potentially spot him or have valid information that can help the police in the search”, according to the website Amberalert.rs, which was launched by the organisation of Igor Juric, Tijana Juric Foundation.

In the USA, according to data from the website of the US Ministry of Justice, 1,127 children were saved by January of this year thanks to the Amber Alert system.

Igor Juric has been advocating for the introduction of such a system in Serbia for years, and on Wednesday, January 11, his Center for Missing and Abused Children started an online campaign – citizens were invited to support the introduction of this system on social networks by using the hashtag hocemoamberalert. In 24 hours, as they announced yesterday, the hashtag was used in more than a million posts on four social networks.

Accusations of paedophilia based on claims from 4Chan and Reddit

It was this campaign that provoked a counterattack from those who oppose the introduction of such a system. Since yesterday, two videos of Sasa Borojevic from a TV guest appearance from the show “After Lunch” on TV Happy from January 2021 have been posted on the TikTok account “Vostani Serbie”. In the account’s description, it is stated that it is “against Amber Alert, the software of proven paedophiles”.

Igor Juric was also in the studio, who opposed his claims, but Juric’s words were cut from the video, so the TikTok audience could only hear that Serbia does not need an American Amber Alert (even though the American system is not being implemented), that behind it is the company Amber Ready Inc (incorrectly) or the Clinton family and John Podesta (unfounded), which it claims are involved in human trafficking on the basis that Trump has accused them of it (although there is no evidence). At the same time, Borojevic underlined that he is not against the introduction of such a system, but only if it is developed by the state of Serbia, which Juric also said, but this is not heard in the video.

Borojevic “supported” the claim that a private company connected to human traffickers is behind the Amber Alert system with a press release from almost 15 years ago, which apparently he found on Reddit, but which does not prove anything.

TV Happy/YouTube

In this announcement from 2009, it is stated that the company Amber Ready INC begins cooperation with the Podesta Group, which will do a PR campaign for them around the new, mobile technology for parents that they had developed at that time – parents, with a monthly fee, could buy this software to create “Amber profiles” of their children that they would keep in their mobile phones. As stated in that announcement, when a child goes missing, parents waste precious time answering numerous questions from the police about the child, finding a recent photo of the child, etc., and this software was supposed, according to them, to speed up the entire procedure since parents would already have their children’s profiles saved, which they would immediately forward to the police.

Amber Ready was a private company that, according to the website of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, was founded under a different name in 2001 as a precious metals trading company. In the meantime, they gave up precious metals and in 2009, while the Amber Alert system was “working” in the USA, they changed their name to Amber Ready and started developing software. As they stated in 2010, they offer their software to parents but also government services such as the police, and it was only supposed to “supplement” and “improve” the existing Amber Alert system, whereby information about children is not stored in databases, but exclusively in parents’ phones.

However, based on what Borojevic presented, it turned out that Amber Ready is behind the entire Amber Alert system in the USA.

In the USA, this system is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice and is coordinated by the Office of the Attorney General. In addition to the media, notifications are also sent via mobile operators – in the USA there is already an elaborate system for notifying people with SMS messages and notifications about emergencies, dangers, and bad weather. This system is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is a state institution.

That such a system can only be managed by the state, with the possible help of non-governmental organizations, Juric said in the above-mentioned show, as well as in yesterday’s appearance on “Interview on the line” of the newspaper Danas.

“Such a system can only be managed by our police. We cannot as an organization, we can help promote, and share information when it is published, just like you, just like all the media today. (…) Our police and our prosecutor’s office and our courts will be there”, said Juric and explained that Amber Alert is, after all, not an organization where children would come and could be stalked by paedophiles, but rather the name for a system for quick alarming the public.

Also, Igor Juric stated in the program on TV Happy that our system would have nothing to do with the American one, that is, his idea is for Serbia to develop its necessary software and its system in accordance with its needs.

“The software that we offered, we are in contact with a Greek organization that received money from the European Commission to implement that system in Greece and it works. I contacted them, they are ready to provide that system to Serbia completely free of charge if the state wants it. If it doesn’t want it, let them build a better system, I have nothing against it”, Juric said then, rejecting Borojevic’s claims that American software is being implemented in our country, but none of that can be heard in the disputed TikTok video.

Two minutes of Pizzagate

The story that John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, is behind the Amber Alert system, through the company Amber Ready, is not new, nor is Borojevic its creator. It circulated, among other things, on Reddit.

The Podesta Group, the lobby and PR company mentioned in the statement that Borojevic cites as key evidence, no longer exists. It was founded by brothers, Tony and John Podesta, who was Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff and one of the actors of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory that circulated on the Internet before the 2016 US elections when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were in the running. The Pizzagate conspiracy theory originated from supporters of Donald Trump and was intended to link Clinton and the Democrats to a ring of paedophiles and human traffickers to discredit them.

At that time, John Podesta’s emails were leaked in which the word “pizza” was mentioned (Podesta was arranging dinner plans with his brother), which conspiracy theorists from the obscure forum 4chan claimed was code for paedophilia, and “cheese pizza” was a code for child pornography. It was claimed that the centre of events was the Washington pizzeria “Comet Ping Pong”, in the basement of which allegedly hidden children were used in the chain of human trafficking and paedophilia, as well as in satanic rituals. The theory about Podesta began to spread on social networks with the hashtag Pizzagate, and in early December 2016, an American shot at a pizzeria, intending to find evidence of secret rooms and paedophilia. Fortunately, no one was injured, and after finding no evidence, he turned himself in to police.

By the way, Sasa Borojevic is, according to his claims, a “fighter for children’s rights”, and at the same time the founder of the UMS School for Talents and Art and Media High School. In December 2021, together with the controversial pulmonologist Braninir Nestorovic, he promoted the association “Knights of the Order of the Dragon” whose idea was “to protect children from manipulation – from violence on the Internet, paedophilia and the protection of children from the promotion of the LGBT movement in schools”. Even at the very presentation of the organization, they made a series of incorrect claims that the fact-checking web portal Fakenews Tragac debunked in as many as nine articles. Among other things, at that conference, these two made inaccurate claims about the Amber alert system.

Sasa Borojevic is also an opponent of the LGBT population, about whom he has repeatedly shared photos and posts intending to discredit them. He claims that LGBT values are forcibly imposed on children and that the ultimate goal of everything is the legalization of paedophilia.

Borojevic attracted the public’s attention at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and Raskrikavanje repeatedly dealt with his incorrect claims, which brought him great popularity. On his previous Facebook page, which he deleted last year, he had around 35,000 followers, and then he started a new one, “Sasa Borojevic Again”, where he continues to spread disinformation and conspiracy theories.