Social media post about fake AI cameras in Winnipeg goes viral

Surveillance cameras are everywhere these days. We are often watched while we shop, park in parking lots, or approach other people's homes.

But what if an intersection in Winnipeg was monitored with AI-supported cameras and automatically sent tickets for violations?

A social media post alluded to this very thing and went viral. The post is not real but it fooled a lot of people.

According to a post on the City of Winnipeg's satirical Facebook page for the Complaints Division, the city was planning to install new cameras on St. Mary's Road and Fermor Avenue.

The post said the cameras were being used to catch people not wearing seat belts or using cell phones.

“I actually sent it to my son and then deleted it because I thought, 'This can't be right,'” said Kim, who spoke to CTV News Winnipeg on Friday.

She had every reason to be suspicious. The author of the page told CTV News Winnipeg that the page was intended to provide some comic relief.

“Some people knowing it's a joke and others believing it's real definitely adds to the comedic factor. It also shows the real truth about how easy it is for 'fake news' to spread so quickly and easily,” they wrote to CTV News Winnipeg.

Although the post and idea are wrong, cybersecurity and technology analyst Ritesh Kotack explained that the ability to detect whether someone is holding a mobile phone or wearing a seatbelt is logical and plausible.

“The technology is evolving and applications like this in public safety and traffic monitoring are definitely on the horizon,” Kotack said.

However, he noted that the possibility does not mean that it should be done, adding that he believes public safety must also be balanced with individual privacy.

A city spokesperson said in an emailed statement that while some social media accounts appeared to be associated with the city, they were actually parody accounts.

“While we understand the frustration of anyone who encounters this, social media platforms allow these accounts to exist as long as they identify themselves as satirical or parody accounts,” the spokesperson said.

“This particular page can actually be described as satire. In addition, any announcement or launch of a new initiative would be published on the city's website. The city's website always remains a reliable source of information.”