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Prank sites aim to fool with reports of alcohol sales suspension

March 31, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Governors in many states are suspending alcohol sales around the end of March. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Posts about the suspension of alcohol sales because of the coronavirus, which have surfaced near April Fools Day, are being fueled by prank generator sites. 

THE FACTS: Social media posts made to look like they come from a news report are circulating online, suggesting that governors in several states, including New York, Illinois, Georgia, Kansas, California and Texas, are ending alcohol sales while they grapple with how to combat the coronavirus spreading in their states. In many cases, the post uses a photo of the governor of the state featured in the post.

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“NYS all alcohol sales to end March 31 at 8 p.m.,” stated one Facebook post showing a photo of  Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which then takes you to a prank site.

Comments with the false claims on Facebook suggested that people would need to quickly stock up on alcohol before the orders went into effect. 

In fact, after Cuomo announced the state’s order for residents to stay home, the state liquor authority tweeted on March 20 that the  “manufacture, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages are deemed essential.”

State officials across the country have taken varied stances, asking for nonessential businesses like bars and restaurants to close their doors. For example, liquor stores in California are allowed to remain open and restaurants can sell beer, wine and cocktails for pickup or delivery. In Pennsylvania, all state-owned liquor stores have closed. 

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted Monday to debunk the rumor that beer and alcohol sales would end in the state on March 30 at 3 p.m. The governor shared a screenshot of a post showing a fake headline from Channel 22 news, which takes you to a prank generator site. 

“This is another fake site. This is not true,” he said and suggested that people check for official updates on the virus from gov.georgia.gov/news. 

As the coronavirus continues to spread, social media users continue to share links from prank generator sites to trick users into clicking on links. 

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536