Be cautious about the Covid-19 information you are getting and sharing on social media, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher says.
Mr Kircher’s advice comes after after nasty rumours, inaccurate advice and bullying circulated through social media following the second wave of Covid-19 in New Zealand.
On Saturday, a now-debunked rumour about an alleged managed isolation facility breach was shared on the community Facebook page Waitaki Voice.
“That simply isn’t good enough,” Mr Kircher said.
“Some people ask what harm is there in sharing information that may be incorrect. Perhaps they should put themselves in the shoes of those who are being slandered.”
This week, the man responsible for the rumour admitted to it being speculative and untruthful, saying he was incredibly remorseful and was ruing the three minutes it took to compose and post the harmful rumour.
While Facebook could be a useful tool, Mr Kircher said using it to “knowingly spread something which might not be true” was “totally irresponsible”.
He urged people to think twice before sharing rumours online and echoed Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield’s comments that there was “no shame or blame” in having contracted Covid-19 and “the virus is the problem, not the people”.
“You don’t have to believe everything the Government is saying, and it doesn’t stop you speaking up against it, but slandering people without proof is totally out of order,” Mr Kircher said.
“Please take care of yourself and the people around you.”
But Waitaki Voice administrator Stephen Carter said he “makes no apologies” for the sharing of the rumour.
He said he shared the post with a disclaimer stating he did not know whether the rumour was true or not.
The post attracted more than 120 comments, mostly critical of Mr Carter’s decision to share it.
“The reason why I put it up is because I certainly don’t trust the Government,” Mr Carter said.
“I thought it was probably unlikely that it is true, but you never bloody know.
“If I believe there is even a slim possibility of truth to it, I will definitely post it.”
Mr Carter believed most people would not have taken the rumour at face value, but acknowledged some people could have.
Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said the agency had noticed a “discernable increase” in misinformation being shared online recently.
The Covid-19 response and upcoming election featured prominently, he said.
“Laws apply on the internet as they do anywhere else. The issues come with the practicality of enforcing it,” Mr Cocker said.