Saskatoon police caution public about social media misinformation
Saskatoon police are warning the public about spreading misinformation on social media.
A Facebook post on the Saskatoon Police Service’s (SPS’s) official page said there have been “numerous posts on social media that have caused panic and fear among people in our community.”
Police said many of the posts contain specific details about the alleged perpetrators race or job, but that “only a few of these posts actually had an accompanying official police report.”
SPS said social media can contribute to “unnecessary fear.”
Grant Obst, staff sergeant with SPS, said it’s important for residents to think critically when sharing social media posts.
“In many cases, the situation that is described in the post has never been brought to the attention of the police,” he said. “In almost all cases, the situation that is described in the post is nothing like the actual situation, if there even was a situation.”
He said people should be reporting things to the police, not to social media.
Obst said people should also do background research before hitting the share button online. He said if there were real concerns about abductions or kidnappings in the community, they would be coming from police.
“If you haven’t seen a media release, if you haven’t heard from the Saskatoon Police Service on that issue, I would ask that you look at it with some suspicion,” he said.
Harley Rivét, a digital marketing expert and the president of Deep Dish Digital in Saskatoon, said a post can spread “extremely quickly” online even if the information it contains is bunk.
“When you share something, it goes out to say your 200 friends, who each in turn have 200 + friends who each in turn have 200 + friends, you can reach thousands of people with only a handful of shares,” he said.
Rivét said sensational information is more likely to grab someone’s attention and therefore more likely to be shared, whether or not it’s accurate.
He encouraged a “secondary search” to verify the information.
Obst said that while it does take resources to investigate allegations made on social media, it’s a “secondary issue,” as it’s the police service’s job to investigate things.
He said the most important thing for residents to do if they see something that may be problematic or dangerous is to report it to the proper authorities.