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Email asking staff to wear masks on Zoom is from a satire account

January 7, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: A screenshot shows an email telling employees they must wear a mask during Zoom meetings, in order to make another staff member feel comfortable.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Satire. The purported email was originally part of a video from a TikTok account labeled as satire, but that context was lost when it was shared to other social media platforms.

THE FACTS: Social media users are sharing images and videos claiming they show an unidentified company instructing employees to wear a mask during virtual meetings while working from home.

The widely-shared posts on Instagram and Facebook show a screenshot purporting to be of an email from a boss giving the instruction to her workers.

“One of our team members has a fear of unmasked people, and I want to make sure everyone feels safe and comfortable,” reads part of the email. One user who re-shared the image on Instagram added, “The day my employer does this will be the day I hand in my two weeks.”

Other widely-circulating posts on Twitter shared a video of a person, first making the claim that they had received the email, followed by the same screenshot.

However, both come from a TikTok account labeled as “satire.”

“insta: zacgramz, 19+ only, satire, LA,” read the biography on the zactokz account, which first posted the clips. Reached via Instagram, zactokz declined to comment. After this article was published, “satire” was removed from the biography.

An archived version of the TikTok profile from Jan. 3 stored by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine shows that the “satire” disclaimer was not in the biography when the first video in the series was posted.

The original video of the creator claiming their employer had made the mask request was posted on Jan. 1, and has since racked up more than a million views. The video showing the “email” was then posted Jan. 3, and has been viewed over 2.4 million times.

The email claims the manager’s name is “Ashleigh LeighAnne Davidson-Greene,” which has been crossed out with a thin line that does not really obscure the name – something many commenters recognized as a joke. Social media users who took the video out of context and reposted the email later crossed the names out more thoroughly.

Subsequent videos posted on the account also indicate it is tongue-in-cheek. In one, the TikTok user shares a “response” email, suggesting the employee making the mask request just “close her eyes or cover up her screen” during meetings.

Zactokz then made a video of the boss allegedly responding: “I asked Mackenzie Mariegh if she would be willing to keep her eyes closed for the duration of our team zoom meetings. I will let you know her response as soon as possible.” This video also includes a new email signature from the boss that says, “Live, Love, Freedom, Mask.”

A comment liked by the creator from the last video reads, “I’m surprised that your name is not Zackeigh.” Another comment with more than 800 likes reads, “Ok I’m relieved to know this is all satire.”

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This article was updated to note that the TikTok account profile was changed after publication.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.