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Police spread fake news about the Zika Virus to fight drugs in Louisiana. Astonishingly, Police Chief Walker actually admits lying about the Zika Virus as a strategy to get meth off the street.
“If you have recently purchased meth in any area of Louisiana it may be contaminated with the Zika Virus,” the Harlan Louisiana Police Department tweeted on December 29. However, the tweet is false because there is no Zika in methamphetamines.
Instead, Walker made up the story to discourage illegal drug use. In fact, Walker admits the falsehood to The New Orleans Advocate.
Police Spread Fake News To Catch Meth Dealers
“Please bring all of it to your local Police Department, and they will test it for free,” the police tweet claims.
Notably, methamphetamine or meth is a Scheduled II controlled substance in Louisiana. Moreover, the possession of even a small amount of methamphetamine is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine in Louisiana.
As a result, police will have to arrest and charge anybody who follows their advice. In addition, Walker hopes to track down drug houses through the tweet.
“If you’re not comfortable coming to us, an officer will be glad to come to you and test your Meth in the privacy of your home,” the tweet continues. “Also, police offer a high level of customer service.”
“Please spread the word!,” the tweet concludes. “We’re available 24/7/365.”
Police Spread Fake News About Zika
Walker’s tweets are attracting national attention because of his attempts to link meth and the Zika Virus. To explain, the Zika Virus causes mild flu-like symptoms in most cases. However, Zika also causes birth defects, stillborn babies, and miscarriages. Besides, Zika can even cause nervous system problems in rare cases.
Significantly, Zika spreads through mosquitoes or sexual intercourse and not through meth. Furthermore, Zika is a threat in swampy areas like Louisiana.
In particular, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns pregnant women to stay out of warmer areas with lots of mosquitos. Notwithstanding, the CDC website states nothing about a connection between Zika and Methamphetamines.
Police Spread Fake News To Stop Methamphetamines
It is important to realize that Walker probably broke no law with the fake meth news. In fact, the First Amendment protects fake news as free speech. On the other hand, former Harlan Mayor Tina Miceli is not amused when police spread fake news. Miceli told The Advocate she opposes the Tweets because the fake news could panic residents.
“I don’t want residents afraid without having information,” Miceli tells The Advocate.
Conversely, Rafael Goyeneche believes spreading fake news is a legitimate law enforcement tactic. For example, cops sometimes catch fugitives with fake news about prize money or giveaways, Goyeneche notes. In fact, police sometimes arrest fugitives who come to collect their prizes.
Should The Police Spread Fake News?
“If somebody is gullible enough to believe that … I don’t see anything sinister with it,” Goyeneche tells The Advocate. To elaborate, Goyeneche is president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, an organization that oversees law enforcement in New Orleans. Indeed, Goyeneche defends police use of fake news. “I think when you’re dealing with social media you’re going to see law enforcement use that as a tool,” Goyeneche says. “It’s essentially achieving a worthwhile purpose.”
Nevertheless, no one has turned any meth into Harlan police because of the Zika fake news tweets, The Advocate reports. As a consequence, criminals and meth addicts are not as gullible as Walker may have thought.
Police Used Naive TV Station To Spread Fake News
However, at least one news outlet, KLFY, apparently believes the fake news tweets. The station in Lafayette, Louisiana, reported Walker’s joke tweets as news. Amazingly, The Huffington Post states that the TV station did not realize the tweets were a joke. Moreover, at least one other TV station, WVUE in New Orleans, reportedly broadcasted the Zika-meth claims as “news.”
Nonetheless, a Harlan police officer admits the tweets were an “attempt at humor” in an ABC interview.
Particularly, ABC names Moody as the source of the fake news. Furthermore, Moody claims that similar fake news tweeted by police in Gratis, Ohio inspired his prank. However, Gratis police add this disclaimer to their fake news tweets: “Disclaimer: methamphetamine can’t be a host for the Zika virus.” Evidently, a number of journalists are not researching meth and Zika. In the end, some TV reporters are apparently more gullible than meth addicts.