One of the first pieces of advice school teachers give their students before a research project is "don't believe everything you read online."
That phrase couldn't ring any more true after Tuesday evening when rumors quickly spread and social media feeds including Twitter and Facebook blew up about the alleged presence of the Kansas-based organization Westboro Baptist Church at the Motel 6 in Southington.
The thing is, none of it was true, Southington Police Sgt. Jeffrey Dobratz said Wednesday.
"There were no arrests and there were no citations given in (the Motel 6) area last night. The WBC people were never there," Dobratz said.
The online hacker group 'Anonymous,' which has targeted the church after members praised the Newtown school shooting as the work of an angry God, sent out information indicating a group from the church planning to protest at the funeral of Sandy Hook School Principal Dawn Hochsprung was staying at the hotel.
Later in the evening, pictures of police standing guard at the hotel only further served to spread rumors and by Wednesday, social network discussions offered alleged "confirmations" that a member of Anonymous had been arrested and was in police custody.
The thing is, none of it was true.
Dobratz said the police presence came at the request of a hotel manager after crowds began to form near the hotel when the rumors first started. The hotel was burdened with false calls for pizza to the alleged rooms occupied by Westboro members and other activity, according to police reports. Again, the church members were never there.
These officers were hired on private detail at no cost to the taxpayers, he said.
Police were also adamant that no arrests were ever made. In fact, according to dispatch reports, there were a total of four calls of any kind at the hotel or surrounding area and none were related to either the WBC or Anonymous.
"The rumors are just rumors," Dobratz said.
So if there's anything to take away from Tuesday night, it's that you need to beware: Not everything you read on the Internet is true.
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