About that text … the one about the impending federal shutdown …

N.J. officials say ‘foreign powers’ have launched disinformation campaign, announce own COVID-19 info site

By Tom Bergeron
Newark | Mar 21, 2020 at 3:51 pm

There’s a good chance you — or someone you know who couldn’t wait to tell you — got a text this week that was describing a pending national shutdown. The message was said to have come from a federal or military official.

Jared Maples, the director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, said it came from a foreign government.

“(It) was deliberately sent out to sow discord and discontent,” he said.

Maples, speaking at Gov. Phil Murphy’s daily coronavirus briefing Saturday, said his office is in constant contact with the intelligence community at the federal level. And it is well aware that foreign powers are spreading disinformation.

“It is a coordinated campaign,” he said. “There’s no question about that. We are aligned with our federal partners in that assessment.”

The text was just one example, Maples said.

“There’s a lot of other official examples,” he said. “Government officials in Iran and China have spread disinformation about COVID-19. Those type of information strains are only causing more harm than good. That’s what we’re trying to alleviate.”

Maples took one step in a statewide call with law enforcement officials last week.

“One of my big messages to the group: Make sure you get information from the right sources and the right sources only,” he said.

Murphy has urged citizens to follow reputable media sources.

(We agree. And we thank him for that.)

The state also has set up its own website, www.covid19.nj.gov, what officials are calling the New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub.

The goal, Murphy said, is to provide New Jerseyans with the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 and the state’s response, including information about services such as food assistance and small business assistance.

“We want to make it easier for New Jersey residents to access the critical resources they need as the state responds to COVID-19,” Murphy said. “This innovative new site, equipped with expert knowledge and vital information, is an essential resource for New Jerseyans during this time.”

According to a release, the New Jersey Office of Innovation, the New Jersey Department of Health, the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development and other state agencies have partnered with Yext, which has volunteered its time and resources to help build the website, and the Federation of American Scientists’ “Ask a Scientist” project, which sources hundreds of scientific experts to address general questions about COVID-19.

The New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub includes a COVID-19 Symptom Checker, so New Jerseyans can receive tailored advice depending on their symptoms, including information about testing, the release said. It said the state also hopes it will increase New Jersey’s ability to analyze the spread of COVID-19.

Visit the New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub at covid19.nj.gov.

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