Bellport Village is not on Instagram
A ‘village of Bellport’ account has been posting false information under claims of ‘ironic commentary’ on village life
Many Instagram users in the area got a notification on their phones that Bellport Village was now following them, the Advance included. But despite the fact that @villageofbellport is an active Instagram account with village-related content, the village government does not have an official account.
The account has posted images with comments making readers believe that it was the village government speaking. In a post related to bicycling, the account wrote that they would issue summonses to riders who don’t obey “rules of the road,” adding, “We are receiving a lot of support on this measure, both here on Instagram and in our meetings with the community!” There have been no measures by the village to control bicyclists.
The account also posted screenshots of headlines from cbs-news.us, which, if followed, brings you to a fake news generator that allows anyone to create a news-looking story. Stories posted on the account include an upcoming order of rentable scooters for the village and a new glass-recycling program. Both stories are false.
The account has also posted community content, which feeds into the confusion with residents. The account administrator was present at the Memorial Day parade and posted photos from the unveiling of the bowling alley at the community center.
The Advance learned Monday through a conversation with the account’s owner(s) that it is being run by village residents who call themselves “Bellport’s Committee for Community Social Engagement,” and will perform “community outreach via social media channels.” There were no names provided.
The account owner(s) made us aware that the page is actually meant to serve as “ironic commentary on small-town living and local government.” They reported that some residents have understood this, but not all, and the posts are not meant to be taken literally. The account added that it would try to make the posts “more ridiculous” (as some have already been) in order to make it clear that the site is a parody.
Residents have been reporting the account for false information, and the village has put a notice on their website that the account is not associated with the village. Officials said Tuesday that the technology department within the village is working on a solution to stop the misinformation. As of press time, Village Hall has not received any inquiries about the information posted on the site.
HOW TO SPOT FAKE NEWS
• Check the source. Many times, the URL of a site will look similar to a real news site, but always visit a URL before considering the information safe. For example, the content on cbs-news.us is very obviously different than cbsnews.com.
• Look at the photo. For local news, stock photos are rarely used. If a stock photo is used, it should be a red flag, which doesn’t always mean it is fake news, but should make you look a little harder.
• Who said it? Sourcing is a big part of credible news. If a story doesn’t name its sources, and you can’t tell where the information comes from, it’s likely false or misleading. Also, if there are sources, make sure those are credible, too, before trusting their information.
• Look for quality. If a story is riddled with spelling or grammatical errors, it has probably not been vetted very well. Obviously, mistakes happen, but consistent errors should be a big red flag.
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