The White House/Facebook

Fake text messages floating around claim Trump will declare martial law

Rumor reportedly the product of a foreign disinformation campaign.

Mar 16, 2020, 2:25 pm*

Tech

 

Claire Goforth

A viral rumor being spread primarily via text message claims that President Trump is going to order a mandatory two-week quarantine nationwide in order to control the spread of novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

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The messages typically claim to come from someone with connections to the White House or federal government, Vox reports. Many posting about receiving the messages say they’re coming from random phone numbers.

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Most of the messages say some version of the following, “Please be advised, within 48 to 72 Hours the president will evoke what is called the Stafford Act. Just got off the phone with some of my military friends down in D.C. who just got out of a two hour briefing.”

“The president will order a two-week mandatory quarantine for the nation.”

Last night, the National Security Council announced that the rumors are false. In a tweet, NSC said, “There is no national lockdown,” and advised that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide the latest guidance on COVID-19.

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Discussions of the rumor, which is also being sent via email, are rampant on various social media and discussion platforms.

As Vox notes, the rumor’s spread is being fueled by the bits of truth it contains. While Trump did invoke the Stafford Act on Friday, he did so to free up funds to address the coronavirus pandemic.

Although it is true that everyone from infectious disease experts to Arnold Schwarzenegger are recommending that people stay home as much as possible, there are no official plans to order a national quarantine. Thus far mandatory quarantine only applies to individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Most, though not all, online discussions seem to conclude that the warning is false.

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The Associated Press is now reporting that the federal government believes the rumor is the product of a foreign disinformation campaign. Three officials who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity did not indicate which nation or nations are believed responsible.

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To date, COVID-19 has been confirmed in 175,000 people worldwide. More than 6,700 people have died.

The first case of novel coronavirus was identified in the U.S. on Jan. 20. Since then, more than 4,000 have been diagnosed with the virus, and dozens have perished.

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*First Published: Mar 16, 2020, 2:19 pm