Fueled by several rumor posts that spread on social media yesterday, some Roseville residents were bracing for violent protests to arrive in their neighborhoods. But the Roseville Police Department says the threats were not credible. The RPD tweeted out Monday afternoon, "We are aware that there are many unsubstantiated rumors about criminal activity in Roseville. We are monitoring." Spokesperson Rob Baquera says despite several reports, there was only one demonstration and there were no incidents in the city.
That didn't stop unverified posts with misinformation on sites like Facebook and NextDoor from being shared over and over, spreading fear and division online. Baquera declined to say how many reports the department received regarding the posts, but he says officers were monitoring all of them.
On a much larger scale, a Tweet that was attributed to ANTIFA US went viral after calling for people to move into residential areas and "take what is theirs." The post was eventually removed by Twitter after it was determined the account was tied to the white nationalist group Identity Evropa, but not before being shared by accounts like Donald Trump, Jr. with millions of followers.
Tech expert Tim Bajarin with Creative Strategies says social media companies are up against the wall trying to vet posts for misinformation. He says rather than being proactive, companies like Twitter have to take a reactive approach, while Facebook has adopted a "hands-off" approach causing some Facebook employees to resign in protest.
Internationally bestselling author and conspiracy theory expert David McRaney says much misinformation being spread online is being inflamed by people's political afilliations. And when those views get challenged, people respond emotionally.
He says the best way to approach someone who you believe is spreading misinformation or conspiracy theories is to ask people questions until they realize what drives their opinions. It's about the other person's processing, not the current result of that processing.