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VERIFY: There is no evidence of a #dcblackout, yet rumors persist

WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. logo WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. 6/2/2020 Eliana Block, Evan Koslof
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QUESTION:

Is there any evidence that the government jammed protesters' phones, stopping them from making calls or protesting online?

ANSWER:

There is no evidence of this.

SOURCES:

Peter Newsham- Chief of Police- Metropolitan Police Department

Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson

Verizon spokesperson

AT&T spokesperson

Twitter spokesperson

Black Lives Matter DC Twitter

PROCESS:

During the third night of demonstrations near the White House, an online rumor claiming that protesters were unable to get cell service or upload content on social media went viral.

Under the hashtag, #dcblackout, some claimed that their phones were being "jammed."

So we're verifying if  there's any evidence that the government jammed protesters phones, stopping them from making calls or posting online?

First our Verify researchers contacted DC police. 

"This appears to be misinformation," a spokesperson for DC police said. "We have no confirmation of a cell phone blackout."

Chief of Police Peter Newsham expanded on that during a press conference Monday, June 1.

"There was no communications loss that I saw, in any way shape or form," Newsham said. "I don't know where that came from, and that's why I rarely take a lot of the information that I get from social media on its face."

Our Verify researchers then turned to cell phone carriers to see whether they noticed any outages in the District.

Spokespeople for both Verizon and AT&T confirmed their phone networks operated normally overnight.

Next, our Verify researchers checked with WUSA9 journalists who worked in the field overnight, during the demonstrations.

Videos and photos continued to upload normally throughout the night.

Our Verify researchers also looked at some of those tweets claiming that phones were being jammed. One account has since been suspended, another was removed.

A Twitter spokesperson confirmed that they are investigating the #dcblackout hashtag.

"We're taking action proactively on any coordinated attempts to disrupt the public conversation around this issue," a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. "We are actively investigating the hashtag #dcblackout and during that process have already suspended hundreds of spammy accounts that Tweeted using this hashtag. For more information, see our platform manipulation and spam policy."

Additionally, Black Lives Matter DC tweeted that #dcblackout is 'fake.' So we can Verify, false, there is no evidence that phones were being 'jammed.'

RELATED: VERIFY: Fact-checking photos and claims from the Minneapolis protests

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RELATED: VERIFY: Can your employer mandate a COVID-19 test before you return to work?

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