PR lessons from the social media hoax targeting Starbucks

After someone posed as a fictional barista on Facebook and claimed to have befouled drinks at a Georgia location, the chain struck back, but not before threats forced the store’s closing.

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“Fake news” takes many forms, and it can have real-world consequences.

An Atlanta-area Starbucks closed after it received phone threats and the parent company was unable to convince some that a social media post claiming to be from a disgruntled Starbucks employee was a hoax.

The Washington Post reported on the faux Facebook posts:

The admissions from a Starbucks employee were apparently too revolting not to share. Spitting in a woman’s coffee, sprinkling dog feces in a child’s hot chocolate, mixing blood into jam — all were disgusting acts, presumably committed by a black woman, Shanell Rivers, targeting white customers in the Atlanta area and detailed on Facebook for the world to see.

The digital outrage spurred real-life consequences Sunday, forcing the store in Brookhaven, north of Atlanta, to close two hours early, a Starbucks corporate staffer told The Washington Post.

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