If social media has taught us anything in recent years, it’s that too many people are overly prone to believing anything they read. Twitter alone has removed approximately 70 million bot accounts since May, which is more than one million suspicious accounts every single day. People believe what they read and when there are millions of fake users spreading disinformation, it doesn’t bode well for appropriately informing the public.
One thing people readily believe is information that looks out for their health. When the medical professionals tell us that seven hours of physical activity per week leads to a longer life, we believe it and lace up our running shoes. What about when a police department warns people local meth may be contaminated with the Zika virus? Like we said about social media, some people will believe anything.
In Louisiana, a police department posted a now-viral social media PSA that cautioned local meth users that their product might be infected with the Zika virus.
“…If you have recently purchased meth in any area of Louisiana it may be contaminated with the Zika Virus. Please bring all of it to your local Police Department and they will test it for free. 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. Please spread the word! We’re available 24/7/365…” the post read.
The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can also be sexually transmitted and passed on from mothers to their fetuses, sometimes resulting in birth defects. However, it cannot infect a synthetically created drug. The police department thought that went without saying, but they were wrong. While most saw through the post as a cheeky joke to highlight the prolifery of meth in the area, others took it seriously. Including other news sources.
Officer Moody of the Harahan Police Department posted this based on inspiration from a similar post that a Police Department in Ohio shared earlier this year. The difference was that the post from Ohio had a disclaimer that clearly stated meth can’t be host to the Zika virus. A disclaimer that Officer Moody clearly didn’t think he needed to state.
While 90% of households are indulging in ice cream, apparently the number of households indulging in ice has also been on the rise. The post sought to highlight the burgeoning meth epidemic in the area and help open the conversation around the country. What they got instead was hundreds of sarcastic, humorous comments on the post and news outlets thinking it could actually happen. More than 800 comments and 5,000 shares spread throughout the community, most of which joked about bringing their meth stash for inspection ASAP.
Later, the Harahan Police Chief noted that the post was meant to semi-humorously promote awareness about a growing problem, but went on to confirm that Zika couldn’t infect meth. Microbiology just doesn’t work like that.
In the face of a growing drug problem, police departments are turning to new strategies in an attempt to slow its progress. We credit their creativity in that attempt, even if at first they don’t succeed.