September 28th, 2016

Dog rumour shows gaps in social media — situation took on life of its own through Facebook


By Lethbridge Herald on July 14, 2015.

J.W. Schnarr
SOUTHERN ALBERTA NEWSPAPERS — TABER
The news a horrific discovery had been made at the Taber Recycling Facility earlier this month swept through social media, but is proof positive you should take the things you read on the Internet with a grain of salt, say members of Taber Police Service.
Word began floating around Facebook a mutilated dog corpse had been discovered at the recycling facility, along with a warning for local residents to watch their pets and their children.
But TPS Const. Juanita Fudge said after investigating the incident, there is no cause for concern for local residents.
“There is no dog. The public does not need to be afraid for their pets or their children, as was posted,” she said. “(The poster) also said the animal was tortured, but I don’t know why they felt that way.”
Fudge explained the Town of Taber collects cardboard from local businesses for recycling at the recycling facility, where the collected recyclables are then sorted by hand.
She said often, people do not put their recycling in the proper places, so garbage often comes in along with the recyclables. The workers separate the garbage from the recyclables and dispose of it accordingly.
The man who made the discovery is the husband of the woman who posted the message to Facebook, and he has previously found bags of cardboard with blood on it, which Fudge said has been collected from businesses in town that deal with raw meat.
“It’s nothing alarming,” said Fudge. “Maybe some meat departments, or things like that in town. In this case, the bag contained quite a bit of blood. He opened the bag and saw black fur, and assumed it was a dog. It was actually the remains of a butchered cow.”
Fudge said she took photographs and explained to the man what it was he had seen in the bag. However, with over 200 shares on Facebook locally, there was a lot of concern in the community.
“We’re just trying to make it right,” said Fudge. “We don’t want people to be afraid for their pets or their children, as had been posted. It was nothing of that sort.”
Chief Alf Rudd said TPS has been busy trying to make sure the proper information is available to local residents.
“Jumping to conclusions and then spreading around the community as it has, it’s ‘Chicken Little Syndrome,’” he said, referring to the old fairytale about a chicken who runs around the farmhouse telling everyone the sky is falling and causes panic in the other animals.
Fudge said local residents are encouraged to call police anytime they see something that looks threatening or suspicious, and that doing so before posting to social media is a more effective way to deal with the situation.
“The poster and the man who found it never brought it to the attention of the police,” she said. “They immediately went to social media. If it hadn’t come to us through a third party, we would have had no way of knowing about it, and that garbage would have been picked up. I would have no idea if it was or was not a dog.”
The issue highlights the problems with using social media as a primary news source, something police say they have to deal with on a regular basis.
“I’m sure everyone has been told enough that not everything on the Internet is fact,” Fudge said.
“It’s sometimes been referred to as a colostomy bag of conjecture and rumour,” added Rudd. “I think this is a good example of that. People are just acting and reacting, rather than taking a proper course of what needs to be done. If you see something suspicious, that’s what we’re for. We’re fortunate we did get the bag, otherwise we’re chasing shadows.”

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