Satirical website The Manatee tricks New Brunswick for Halloween
Fredericton complains fake news stories cause waste of police resources
A post on a satirical website stating New Brunswick will impose a 4:30 p.m. curfew on Halloween led the City of Fredericton to post a Facebook notice stating the story was fake and is resulting in a waste of police resources.
It stated anyone found going door-to-door after 4:30 p.m. would be fined between $100 and $500, depending on the number of children in the group and the amount of effort put into their costumes, with smaller fines issued to those with more creative costumes.
The story generated a lot of worry among trick-or-treaters, said police spokesperson Alycia Morehouse.
"Starting about midday, Fredericton City Hall and Fredericton police received a number of calls about concern from the public about our Halloween curfew," she said.
The police force posted a message on Twitter to reassure the public there is no curfew.
The City of Fredericton posted a message on Facebook stating City Hall and the city's police force had received a number of calls about the possible curfew and the false news story.
"There has been a lot of chatter on social media, but we can reassure the public that this is not the case," stated the city.
"We would ask people to refrain from posting an unsubstantiated information for this reason. Specifically, increased call volume to deal with a fake story, can unnecessarily tie up police lines."
Co-creator of site surprised by response
The Manatee site was launched about a month ago by co-creators Alex Vietinghoff and Shauna Chase.
They felt the news in New Brunswick needed a bit of comic relief, so they post stories, poking fun at some of the stories people are talking about.
Previous headlines have included: McDonald's employee seeks help finding pet mouse, and Ikea moves to Bathurst.
Vietinghoff says he was surprised by how many people took the latest story about the Halloween curfew seriously.
"It's been a mixed reaction. There's been a lot of people that know that it's satire and they think it's hilarious," he said.
"And then there seems to be quite a few people who either, they just read the headline, or they just don't clue in that it's made up, and either they'll be really outraged, or they just can't believe what they're reading and are complaining."
Vietinghoff says he hopes people realize they have to watch what they read on the internet.
"I was a little nervous at first because I thought, `Oh great, what have I done?'" he said.
"But I think now it's pretty obvious to everyone that it's satirical and hopefully going forward there won't be any small crisis like that again."
The site has had about 200,000 visitors, and yesterday's Halloween story had about 50,000 hits.
The Halloween curfew article prompted many people on social media to take aim, not at The Manatee, but those who took the idea seriously without asking any further questions.