Fake WPS “press release” makes its rounds on social media



By Becca Myskiw, Kelsey Shaefer, and Riley Hastings

People need to be skeptical of what they read online, even if it seems to come from a credible source.

A recent local example shows us the importance of not taking social media posts at face value.

A Winnipeg Police Service “press release” responding to accusations against a Unicity Taxi driver spread across social media and created a buzz throughout Winnipeg. There was just one problem: the press release was fake.

At first glance, this looks like a legitimate statement from the WPS. It’s not, and its origins are unknown.

A young woman’s brother posted about an alleged incident with a Unicity driver on April 6. The post accused the driver of attempted kidnapping. The Instagram post quickly went viral. One repost alone had 984 likes.

The fake press release appeared a few days later, stating the woman’s story was false and the police had footage to prove it.

The Projector reached out to the WPS and learned that police received a call about the alleged incident, but they did not send out a media release about it.

“It’s completely fake,” said Constable Rob Carver, public information officer for the WPS. “We don’t use the phrase ‘press release.’”

Carver said there is too much fake news today for them to investigate the fake release.

The police didn’t respond to the fake release on any of their channels.

“It’s 2019,” said Carver. “The world is full of it.”

The Projector arranged to interview the young woman and her brother who initially made the post, but they never showed up to meet with reporters.

It’s impossible to tell where the truth lies in this situation. Admittedly, we are left with more questions than answers. We can only hope that the truth comes out during the police investigation.

One thing is certain: stories like this one show us the importance of thinking critically about the content we see online.

“Fake news” was Collins Dictionary’s 2017 Word of the Year. Since then, truth online has only become harder to parse from fiction.

The Toronto Public Library’s tips for spotting fake news revolve around the 5 W’s.

Who wrote the article and are they credible? What information is given and is it everything you need to draw a conclusion? When was it published and is it timely? Where is the source from and is it credible? Why was this published in the first place?

Take everything with a grain of salt, folks, and always go to the source.