CLAIM: The PSNI are to pilot a Snapchat social media platform initiative to monitor social mitigation compliance in Northern Ireland.
CONCLUSION: INACCURATE. The PSNI have no plans to introduce any monitoring scheme on any social media platform. Complaints about social mitigation compliance can be registered on the PSNI website.
A claim was published on social media, that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is “to roll out a new ‘Snap-fish’ pilot scheme” on the Snapchat social media platform “to help catch individuals not adhering to social distancing, social bubbles and gathering more than six people” (often referred to as “social mitigation compliance”). The claim added that the PSNI officers have set up ‘fake accounts’ to infiltrate the platform, and that cash rewards may also be offered.
The claim was made on a Facebook Page that posts comedic, satirical and schadenfreude content. Much of their content is branded with their page name; this much-shared example was not.
Postings on the PSNI’s social media accounts include graphics that show updated figures for how many fines and notices have been issued across Northern Ireland, in regards to COVID-19 restrictions, or social mitigation measures. . For example, as of 3 November 2020, the PSNI has issued:
Is the PSNI using social media to monitor and enforce?
FactCheckNI asked the PSNI about these claims, and it responded:
“The Police Service of Northern Ireland has no plans to introduce a ‘snap-fish’ scheme … nor indeed any new social media platforms around the enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions.”
The PSNI explained that its approach is “to engage, explain and encourage members of the community to comply with the Health Protection Regulations…”. It added, “Enforcement is a last resort, but we will not shy away from using it when necessary.” These elements have been nicknamed as “the 4 ‘E’s”, explained by PSNI Chief Constable, Simon Byrne, in his report to the Policing Board on 1 October. In regards to enforcement, the Chief Constable gave an example of working with Belfast City Council and local universities, in the case of compliance in the Holyland and surrounding areas.
Members of the public can register complaints using the online PSNI COVID-19 reporting form.
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