ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — A text message making false claims about a National Guard mobilization is continuing to make its way around Alaska and the lower 48 even weeks after being debunked, due in part to individuals who receive the message forwarding it to friends and family out of concern, but without exercising scrutiny over the form or content of the message.
One variation of the text message obtained by KTUU Sunday makes erroneous claims about the National Guard being mobilized to enforce a supposed nationwide quarantine and that "within 48 to 72 Hours, the president will evoke (sic) what is called the 'Stafford Act.'"
The text message comes in an attachment with what appears to be National Guard insignia, the presidential seal, and a U.S. flag, giving the appearance of an official source.
But belying the official-looking seals and insignia are grammatical, punctuation and capitalization errors, and a dated reference to the Stafford Act which suggests the same message has continued to circulate for weeks unabated by current events.
President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, at which time he invoked the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act which is described by FEMA as "the statutory authority for most Federal disaster response activities especially as they pertain to FEMA and FEMA programs."
According to a Congressional Research Agency report, the Stafford Act provides relief to states, tribes and localities with federal assistance in response to natural and man-made disasters.
According to that report, the Stafford Act was invoked an average of 57.1 times per year between 2000 and 2009, most frequently in response to winter storms and hurricanes.
On Jan. 31, 2019, President Trump invoked the Stafford Act to deliver federal aid to Alaskans following the Nov. 30, 2018 magnitude 7.1 earthquake.
President Trump's own National Security Council issued a flat denial of rumors of a national quarantine on March 15.
Meanwhile, in a statement on March 20, the Alaska National Guard said it was aware of fraudulent text messages being circulated among Alaskans.
"Variations of the texts all claim inaccurate details about the National Guard being mobilized for enforcement. The Alaska National Guard has not been activated to augment law enforcement activities at this time," the statement said in part. "Nationwide, there are inaccurate and misleading reports of social media and text messages similar to those received by Alaskans."
That statement says that requests from communities for COVID-19 support must be made through the State Emergency Operations Center, and the decision to activate forces in Alaska would be made Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, commissioner for the DMVA and adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, and only under the order of Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
KTUU reached out to the individual who forwarded the message to 20 other individuals Sunday to ask them where they received the message, and why they passed it along.
"A friend of mine texted me. It looked like an official thing from the government so I just, thinking of my friends, in case it's real, and I passed it on," the individual told Channel 2 in a phone call Sunday afternoon, seemingly unconcerned about the potential of the message to cause panic or hoarding. "If you don't believe it, don't do nothing, but I'm just sending it to people I know, and if it's real, they know better, and if it's fake, don't worry about it."
On Sunday, Alaska National Guard officials again flatly dismissed the claims made in the text message.
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