A fake news report about a mother murdering three children in Naugatuck prompted a number of phone calls to the borough's police department.
Police said over the past day or so, the department's public information officer received a number of calls from citizens, the media and coworkers regarding the report.
"The calls started coming in pretty quickly. If you just clicked on it, it looks like a legitimate news story, a lot of people just read the headline, without clicking it, so it caused a lot of concern," said Naugatuck Police Lt. Bryan Cammarata.
They said a source called "usanews1.club" circulated an online headline that read "Mother killed three children in Naugatuck."
The dateline was May 1, 2017
People who click on the headline will see a fabricated murder story, then receive a message claiming their computer, phone or tablet has been infected with a virus. For a fee, the same source that planted the virus claims to be able to fix it.
Police urged people not to fall for it.
Simply put, they said there was no murder.
The announcement from Naugatuck police comes as Facebook said it's going to hire 3,000 people to review videos and posts of crime and other questionable content.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted about it on Wednesday.
Ben Bogardus, who is an assistant professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University, said this web story "is harmful, because of the speed at which it can spread."
“In the pre-social media era, stories like this could only be spread slowly, in person-to-person conversations. But now, all it takes is to click on a ‘share’ button to let hundreds of friends see it all at once. Those friends then share it with their friends, quickly making the fake stories go viral in small communities. Unfortunately, once the fake stories start to spread, it’s nearly impossible to pull them back, especially when the headlines are so shocking and tempting to read about," Bogardus said in a statement on Wednesday.
Bogardus also cautioned that people cannot be "so quick to share stories on Facebook and Twitter."
“First, consider the source. In this case, have you ever heard of a legitimate website ending in ‘.club,’ let alone a legitimate news site? Also, take a moment to search for the story on Google or another search engine. Chances are, if the story is that important, other websites will be covering it, too. Finally, be skeptical of the urgency of the headline. The more it tries to shock, scare or anger you enough to share it, the more likely it is that it’s a scam," Bogardus said.
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