Newark Warns: Criminal Penalties for Spreading Coronavirus Fake News

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Unsplash / Glen Carrie

Newark, New Jersey’s Department of Public Safety warned Tuesday that individuals issuing false reports on social media regarding the deadly coronavirus in the city will face criminal prosecution.

“We are putting forth every investigative effort to identify anyone making false allegations on social media to ensure that any posted misinformation is immediately addressed,” Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said in a statement.

Ambrose warned that misleading online posts about the deadly illness can spark panic and fear in the city.

“The State of New Jersey has laws regarding causing a false public alarm and we will enforce those laws. Individuals who make any false or baseless reports about the coronavirus in Newark can set off a domino effect that can result in injury to residents and visitors and affect schools, houses of worship, businesses and entire neighborhoods,” the official said.

“Any false reporting of the coronavirus in our city will result in criminal prosecution,” he added.

Earlier Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) confirmed the first Garden State resident had died from the coronavirus. The patient was a 69-year-old man from Bergen County. The state is waiting on results from 31 others who were tested for the virus that originated from Wuhan, China.

“I was deeply saddened to learn that we lost a Bergen County resident from a case of COVID-19. Marla and I are thinking about his family and loved ones during this very difficult time,” said Rep. Josh Gotttheimer (D-NJ) said in a statement. “Our hospitals, health facilities, frontline medical professionals, communities, and state and federal government are all working to help make sure this outbreak is contained and to keep New Jersey residents safe.”

As of Wednesday, 1,000 cases have been confirmed in the United States and 29 have been killed by the disease across the country, according to data via Johns Hopkins University.

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