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Texas man facing charges for allegedly lying about contracting coronavirus infection online in ‘social experiment’

Authorities say that his social media post caused a panic

Source: Tyler County Sheriff's Office

A man in Texas allegedly said that he wanted to conduct a "social experiment" by lying about having the coronavirus — formally known as COVID-19 — on social media. Now he's facing criminal charges.

According to a Wednesday report from KJAS-FM:

The Tyler County Sheriff's Department has announced that a man has now been arrested after he intentionally posted a false claim on his Facebook page that he tested positive for Coronavirus. District Attorney Lucas Babin says it caused a panic and actually tied up phone lines at Tyler County Hospital in Woodville with concerned residents phoning in.

The man has been identified as 23-year-old Michael Lane Brandin, of Woodville. Sheriff Bryan Weatherford says Brandin turned himself in on Tuesday and was charged with False Alarm or Report, which is a class A misdemeanor, and his bond was set at $1,000.00.

Meanwhile, Babin says Brandin told Tyler County investigators that he did it as a "social experiment" to make a point that you can't believe everything you read online. However, Babin said he believes that Brandin did it to shock people and to draw attention upon himself.

The Tyler County District Attorney's announced the charge Monday afternoon in a Facebook post. In a separate post sent out earlier that same day, the office reminded people that "Knowingly communicating, initiating, or circulating a false report/false alarm of COVID-19 that one *knows is false or baseless*, and that would ordinarily cause action by an official or interrupt the occupation of any place of assembly, can be a criminal offense in the State of Texas."

According to a Wednesday news release from the Sheriff's Office, the suspect turned himself into authorities on Tuesday.

Numbers provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services show that the state has so far seen 83 confirmed cases of the virus and two associated deaths.

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