Fact Check

Supreme Court: Cops Can't Stop, Speak or Look in General Direction of Any Person for Any Reason

Rumor: The Supreme Court has ruled that police can no longer stop, speak to, or look at any member of the public.

Published Apr 24, 2015

Claim:   The Supreme Court has ruled that police can no longer stop, speak to, or look at any member of the public.


Example:   [Collected via email, April 2015]

This link was just posted on Facebook about a Supreme Court ruling. "Supreme Court: Cops Can't Stop, Speak or Look In General Direction Of Any Person For Any Reason. Is it true?


Origins:   A plethora of fake news web sites pump fictional content onto the Internet every day. Although some are popularly recognized as satirical humor sites (such as The Onion and its offshoot, Clickhole) and others have long since been outed as Internet pranksters (such as World News Daily Report), some other sites offering made-up stories are still flying under the skeptical reader radar.

These lesser-known sites can use the element of surprise in order to fool unsuspecting readers. Enter the Habanero of Texas, an entertainment web site that launched in March 2015 and recently put out its first viral piece of fake news.

On 21 April 2015, this fledgling purveyor of Internet fakery published an article reporting that the U.S. Supreme Court had made it illegal for police officers to stop, speak, or look at any member of the public:

The United States Supreme Court Ruled 9-0, today, that a police officer may not: stop, speak, walk by, or even look in the general direction of any person for any reason whatsoever, regardless if the cop believes the person has just committed murder or any other offense. This ruling comes on the cusp of public outrage over police arresting criminals for breaking an assortment of laws.

The Habanero of Texas clearly labels itself as an entertainment web site (the publication's slogan is "Police 'News Source' Peppered with Satire," the article in question is tagged "police satire," and the word "satire" appears on the site's "About" page seven times. Nonetheless, at least a few readers were still fooled into believing that this fictional report of a non-existent Supreme Court decision was a piece of real news:

Last updated:   24 April 2015

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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