Ottawa Public Health pranked us with this clever Super Bowl tweet

Feb 8 2021, 4:12 pm

A viral Super Bowl tweet from Ottawa Public Health turned out to be a lesson in misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tweet looked like a draft that somebody mistakenly published Sunday. There was a note for someone named Bruce to insert the winning team’s name, and a placeholder photo attached.

“*Bruce, make sure to put the winning team’s name here,” the health authority tweeted.

The message has been retweeted more than 1,700 times and received more than 8,000 likes.

But it turns out the funny tweet wasn’t actually a mistake, and Bruce isn’t getting fired. In fact, Bruce doesn’t even exist.

“This seems like a great opportunity to chat about misinformation,” the health authority said in a subsequent tweet, before starting a thread explaining the hints present that could let readers know it wasn’t a genuine screw-up by Bruce.

Ottawa Public Health pointed to the redundancy of the placeholder image, and the signature showing the tweet was posted directly to Twitter instead of scheduled via Hootsuite.

People could have also clued in on the prank when Ottawa Public Health kept the tweet up and replied to those who saw it. If it was genuinely a mistake, the health authority likely would have deleted it, it said.

However, the health authority’s real social media staff said they were touched by the outpouring of support for fictional Bruce, who supposedly made an error.

“Be critical of what you see online,” they said. “Misinformation has consequences that go far beyond the wellbeing of ‘Bruce’.”

Ottawa Public Health used the widely shared tweet to ask people to practice COVID-19-related public health measures and to be careful of misinformation surrounding the virus or the vaccine circulating online.