A file photo of Disney's chief executive officer, Bob Chapek, at Disney's Hollywood Studios on August 28, 2019 in Orlando, Florida ( AFP / Getty Images / Gerardo Mora)

Satire article falsely links Disney CEO Bob Chapek to human trafficking

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Posts on social media say Disney CEO Bob Chapek was arrested for human trafficking following a sting operation that ensnared four Disney employees. This is false; police in Los Angeles, where Chapek lives, say he was not arrested, the website where the claim originated labelled its report satire, and an official list of the 108 suspects detained in Florida does not contain Chapek's name, nor was he mentioned in the probe. 

 "CEO of Disney arrested for human trafficking," a March 17, 2022 tweet says, citing a "Vancouver Times" article from the same day that says Chapek was arrested for human trafficking and possession of child pornography.

A screenshot of a tweet taken on March 23, 2022

The claim circulated on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram. It was also shared in different languages, including German, French, Italian, Spanish and Czech

The "Vancouver Times" article claimed Chapek was arrested in Southern California. AFP contacted the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Information Bureau and was told: "The Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's Station did not arrest Mr Chapek."

The sheriff department's regional human trafficking task force (HTTF) also said it was "not aware of any arrest related to Disney CEO Bob Chapek." 

A search of the LASD inmate information center did not find valid entries under "Bob Chapek" or "Robert Chapek."

A web archive search reveals that the "Vancouver Times" story initially lacked any mention of its satirical nature, but a "satire" label was later added to the page. 

The "satirical" nature of the article was initially not mentioned on the page but was later added, as shown in this screenshot taken on March 23, 2022

The false story was shared after news of arrests by the Polk County police in Florida related to an "undercover human trafficking operation."

The arrests were mostly related to prostitution and solicitation, which are illegal in Florida. Four arrests, out of 108 in total, were for predatory behavior towards minors.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a press conference on March 16 that four Disney employees were among those detained.

According to the sheriff, three employees -- who respectively work in the restaurant industry, software development, and in IT for Disney -- were arrested for soliciting prostitution, while a fourth was charged for three counts involving harmful material.

"He was a lifeguard at the Polynesian Resort for Disney and was bragging about that," the sheriff said of the latter. 

AFP received the full list of suspects arrested in the operation and confirmed that it does not contain Chapek's name. 

AFP asked The Walt Disney Company about the posts linking Chapek to the arrests but no one had responded by time of publication. 

March 25, 2022 This article was updated to add an example of the claim.