Ebola Has Broken Out in an Alaskan School?

Social media report that Ebola has broken out in an Alaskan school.

On 14 October 2014, the Anchorage School District (ASD) fell victim to a convincing hoax on social media sites that reported a possible Ebola outbreak. Images of tweets appearing to originate from the ASD account stated Ebola had been found at high schools in Anchorage, but the images were fakes.

In a tweet sent before noon, an anonymous Twitter included a picture of what looked like an ASD tweet:



EBOLA FOUND IN WEST HIGH SCHOOL IN THE SCHOOL LUNCHES AND WATER FOUNTAINS

Under standard circumstances, the Ebola hoax in Alaska might not have gained traction. However, the tweets circulated alongside legitimate emerging reports of a confirmed Ebola infection in another state. Uncertainty was rife, and the Alaska Ebola hoax spread like wildfire.

ASD explained the fake tweets were facilitated by image manipulation software and added its website had not been compromised:

ASD spokesperson Heather Roach reassured parents and students no Ebola threat was present at East High:



It is 100 percent not true. Someone took a screenshot of our website and used Photoshop so it looked like it came from us but it didn’t. It was 100 percent false.

Roach also stated she didn’t believe the Ebola hoax would lead to serious consequences but was unsure whether the tweets constituted a specific threat:



I don’t think they’d be punished. Obviously if a student makes a threat they would, but just starting rumors, I don’t know specifically. I don’t know where it originated from.

However, Anita Shell of the Anchorage Police Department suggested the fake tweets could fall afoul of laws prohibiting “terroristic threatening”:



It is terroristic threatening if it causes mass panic.

Anchorage Police asked anyone with information on the hoax to contact the APD.

Last updated:   16 October 2014