Texas man sentenced to 15 months in prison for spreading COVID-19 hoax on Facebook
A man who perpetrated a COVID-19 hoax on Facebook last year has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Christopher Charles Perez has been convicted of two counts, which criminalize false information and hoaxes related to biological weapons, the Justice Department said this week.
Authorities say that in April 2020, Perez, 40, posted two threatening fake messages on Facebook, claiming he paid someone infected with COVID-19 to lick items at a San Antonio grocery store to scare people away . A screenshot of the message has been sent to the Southwest Texas Fusion Center (SWTFC). SWTFC contacted the FBI office in San Antonio.
Upon further investigation, it was determined that Perez’s threat was false – he paid no one to intentionally spread COVID-19. Perez also admitted his post was bogus.
“Those who threaten to use COVID-19 as a weapon against others will be held accountable for their actions, even if the threat were a hoax,” said FBI San Antonio Division Special Agent Christopher Combs , in a press release. “Perez’s actions were knowingly designed to instill fear and panic and today’s conviction illustrates the seriousness of this crime. The FBI would like to thank our law enforcement partners for their assistance in this matter. . “
In addition to his 15-month sentence, Perez was fined $ 1,000.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, as well as weapons of mass destruction personnel.
During the pandemic, hoaxes like Perez’s post spread across many social media platforms, which responded by stepping up efforts to fight the
However, a Wall Street Journal report last month described how Facebook’s algorithms are believed to have pushed divisive content because it promotes user engagement. In aThis week, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, said the social media platform changed its algorithm in 2018 to promote “what it calls meaningful social interactions” through “engagement-based rankings. “.
She said content that engages – like reactions, comments, and shares – is more widely distributed.
Haugen left Facebook on her own and walked away with thousands of pages of internal research and communications that she shared with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Shebefore a Senate subcommittee this week.