The Executive Yuan is identifying loopholes in regulations against fake news in the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法) and other legislation, and plans to propose rules to curb the spread of disinformation after the nine-in-one elections on Saturday next week, sources said yesterday.
Under Article 104 of the act, those who cause others or the public at large to suffer losses by disseminating false information through text, images, video, audio or speeches are punishable by up to five years in prison.
The Executive Yuan is deliberating an amendment to tighten the rule by adding language that outlaws “systematic and mass spreading of disinformation aimed at causing a candidate to lose an election,” a person with knowledge of the matter said.
Photo: Lee Hsin-fang, Taipei Times
On orders from Premier William Lai (賴清德), Minister Without Portfolio Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) had held a series of intergovernmental meetings to discuss ways to combat disinformation, the source said.
The proposal could take the form of an amendment to existing laws or a separate law, they said, adding that current rules have left the government powerless to combat fake news.
Executive Yuan spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka said that the Executive Yuan is also considering amending the Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法), the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法), the Insurance Act (保險法) and the Agricultural Finance Act (農業金融法), as well as rewriting a draft digital communications and broadcasting bill.
An amendment to the Communicable Disease Control Act would address those who spread false information about pandemics, she added.
Lo during a meeting reportedly proposed granting targets of fake news the right to ask the source — including individuals and Web sites — to remove any links to the news and pay compensation under the Civil Code.
Kolas said that the bill includes clauses allowing people named in fake news to report people who spread it or file for provisional injunctions against them in court.
However, no additional legal channels against people who spread disinformation have been decided, she added.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice warned people against sharing unsubstantiated or apocryphal news, as it could invite lawsuits.
For example, news was disseminated that during a televised debate on Saturday last week, Democratic Progressive Party Kaohsiung mayoral candidate Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) had worn an earpiece through which aides fed him information, but it was later proved false by the Central Election Commission, it said.
While most cases involving the spread of disinformation is charged under the Social Order Maintenance Act, people who spread fake news about a candidate risk contravening the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act or defamation lawsuits, the ministry said.
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