Police departments in America are spreading false claims on Facebook about meth being contaminated with coronavirus.

The end goal of the Facebook posts is to trick people into turning in their drugs. But, inevitably, some people have actually believed the stunt.

BuzzFeed News report that a post from Merrill Police Department in Wisconsin, which has been shared over 7000 times, reads:

P.S.A WARNING: If you have recently purchased Meth, it may be contaminated with the Corona Virus. Please take it to the Merrill Police Department and we will test it for free.

After backlash began, the police department updated the post, admitting it was was trying to trick people into bringing their drugs to the station. Because of course that makes it okay...

It’s obviously extremely sketchy behaviour for law enforcement to be knowingly spreading misinformation about a deadly health threat for the sake of some laughs online.

According to The Washington Post, other police department Facebook pages have also spread misinformation in the form of bogus articles with headlines like “Texas Police Say Local Meth Is Contaminated With Coronavirus, Offer to Test It.”

COVID-19 has killed almost 3,000 people so far in over 48 countries, with the majority of those deaths occurring in China. That hasn’t stopped online misinformation from spreading, though. The World Health Organization even call it an “infodemic” because of the sheer amount of fake news online.

Sadly this isn’t the first time that police departments have engaged in this sort of behaviour. BuzzFeed’s Jane Lytvynenko notes that some also did it during the Zika virus outbreak in 2018 and in 2016 one person actually got arrested after bringing their drugs in to be tested for Ebola.

President Trump got in on the fake news action too. He blamed Democrat immigration policies and “open borders” for the pandemic, while amplifying conspiracy theories that the virus is a “hoax” to stop his re-election.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that police departments are engaging in this irresponsible behaviour when the literal leader of the free world seems all too happy to do so.

H/T: BuzzFeed News / Jane Lytvynenko

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