ONEIDA COUNTY - It only takes seconds for people to post or share pictures, videos, and thoughts on social media. Those platforms can serve as a good tool to share special memories or moments. But misinformation can spread quickly online, too.
"It's everywhere," said Minocqua Fire Chief Andy Petrowski. "I mean everybody has a cellphone, everybody has the ability to instantaneously put something online the second they drive by it."
Petrowski said it has become fairly common for bystanders at active scenes to post to social media.
"You get people speculating on what started fires, on what caused accidents, and how badly the people are hurt," said Petrowski. "Just from A to Z there are a million things that they're trying to ascertain just by what they're visually seeing when they really don't know."
Fire departments aren't the only ones noticing the social media speculation.
"Sometimes the public will assume things based on our presence in certain areas and then they'll be a whole big social media conversation happening," said Oneida County Sheriff's Capt. Terri Hook.
Hook says a couple weeks ago a rumor spread that someone was "on the loose" in Rhinelander, and people thought the department was not informing the public about the threat. In reality, that person was in custody and had targeted a specific home.
"There was no safety issue to anybody else," said Hook. "Because of the whole outlash that happened the victim ended up having to go on social media and tell everything that happened, and the whole reason we don't share a lot of information is because victims have right to privacy too."
Both Hook and Petrowski believe a victim's privacy is best protected when people let them handle the release of information.
"We will post on Facebook if we believe that there is a danger to the community," said Hook.
"We know what's acceptable to put out there, when to put it out there," said Petrowski.
Most importantly, they ask that people think of the possible consequences before they post.
"Just think if it was you, or your family, or someone that you cared about," said Petrowski. "It's not always the best to just act immediately."