Individuals caught spreading virus-related misinformation

Image taken from Pixabay
Image taken from Pixabay

TAIPEI (CNA) — Several individuals across Taiwan have been tracked down for disseminating false information related to the new coronavirus disease COVID-19, law enforcement authorities said Friday.

Speaking at a news conference in Taipei, the Criminal Investigation Bureau’s (CIB) Third Investigation Corps head Hsiao Juei-hao (蕭瑞豪) said a new immigrant from Indonesia and a man identified only as Ho (何) have been turned over to prosecutors for spreading coronavirus-related fake news.

According to Hsiao, the two were caught by the corps following a tipoff that people had been posting groundless information about the spread of the coronavirus on Facebook.

After an initial investigation, an Indonesian woman was discovered to have been posting messages on the Facebook page of a group stating that some Indonesian workers infected with the disease were out and about in New Taipei’s Shulin District, Hsiao said.

Ho, 45, was found meanwhile to have posted a message on his Facebook page claiming that some customers at a famous KTV parlor and a department store in eastern Taipei had tested positive for the virus.

Although the new immigrant argued that she translated the message of a friend in Indonesian into Chinese and posted it on Facebook to remind friends and relatives of the situation, and Ho claimed that he just wanted to pass on the “news” to other friends after hearing it from a friend, they were both charged with violating the Special Act on COVID-19 Prevention, Relief and Restoration, Hsiao said.

In a press release issued that same day, the CIB said that a 30-year-old Tainan citizen surnamed Lee (李) has been charged in line with the act after he was found to have also disseminated misinformation on the Internet.

According to the CIB, Tainan police nabbed Lee on a tipoff that someone posted fake news March 11 on a Facebook page stating that the 47th confirmed COVID-19 case — an office worker in southern Taiwan — was “kicked out” by his company after it found that he had a fever after returning from a business trip to the Netherlands.

As what Lee said on the post did not match the information made public by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) about the case, he was accused of spreading misinformation and admitted to having not checked it out beforehand when questioned by Tainan police, it said.

According to the CIB, Lee said he learned the information on the Internet and posted it on Facebook to allow his relatives and friends to be aware of the “news.”

Lee has been turned over to the Tainan Prosecutor’s Office for further investigation, it said. He could face a jail term of no more than three years or a maximum fine of NT$3 million (about US$10,000).

In separate developments, a man surnamed Liu (劉) residing in Taichung, as well as five others from New Taipei, Taoyuan, Kaohsiung and Pingtung who were involved in four cases, were also called in by police for questioning for conducting similar offenses, the Investigation Bureau told a news conference later Friday.