BRATTLEBORO — Residents are asked to use common sense but consult with officials if news they read cannot be verified by sources known within the community.

"The Brattleboro Police Department or Reformer's Facebook has probably been vetted and probably is accurate. But if you go to open sources, that's a pretty terrible idea," Police Chief Mike Fitzgerald said. "As a matter of fact, it just defies logic. Because anyone can put anything they want on those types of media sites. There's no credibility there."

The topic came up after a fake news story was published online. The website claimed five people were murdered and found in Brattleboro.

Police Capt. Mark Carignan took to Twitter on Thursday.

"Facebook might be fun but public and unrestricted posts are by definition not reliably sourced. Twitter also actually," he wrote, using an emoticon of a winking face. "Reader beware!"

Fitzgerald recommends checking in with the police department if people want to confirm information. And he urged against opening attachments sent from sources that could not be trusted.

"Because they hide all sorts of malware and viruses," Fitzgerald said. "Lord knows the damage or cost it's going to do to your computer at your business or wherever you might be."

Going to local newspapers and town government was another suggestion for readers unsure what to make of content they have found.


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Asked if the police department had seen a rise in this type of activity, Fitzgerald said, "No more than anyone else."

"It's just a fact of life we have to deal with now. Anyone can post anything they want. It doesn't mean it's true," he said. "You really have to do your fact checking and vet all that information."

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.