Fri, Apr 19, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Draft aims to raise penalties for spreading fake news

AGRICULTURE AND POLLS:Misleading advertisements and those sponsored by foreign entities would be subject to greater scrutiny under the proposed amendment

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

A farmer cuts down a pomelo while another farmer prepares to catch the falling fruit during the pomelo harvest season in Changhua County on Nov. 6, 2017.

Photo: Chen Kuan-pei, Taipei Times

The Cabinet yesterday unveiled draft amendments to the Criminal Code and the Referendum Act (公民投票法) that would stiffen penalties for spreading rumors about agricultural products and plebiscites.

According to the draft amendment to the Criminal Code, people who attempt to manipulate agricultural product prices or daily commodities by spreading disinformation via television broadcasts, electronic communication, the Internet or other broadcast or communication devices would face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to NT$300,000 (US$9,727).

The proposed punishments would also apply to those found to have hoarded daily commodities in an attempt to push up prices.

Fines for those who damage the credibility of others by subterfuge would be raised to NT$200,000 from NT$1,000, while the maximum prison term would remain two years, the proposed amendments say.

Those who tarnish the credibility of others through broadcast or electronic communication would be subject to up to three years in prison and a fine of up to NT$300,000, they say.

Also unveiled was a draft amendment to the Criminal Code of the Armed Forces, which recommends the same punishments for military personnel who are found to have spread false information about the military, with the only difference being that personnel who “pass along” such rumors would also face sanctions.

The proposed changes to the Referendum Act would apply to misleading advertisements about referendums run by media outlets, including newspapers, magazines, broadcast companies, digital communication service providers and Internet companies.

Prior to running an advert about a referendum, media outlets must verify the authenticity of its content, as well as whether its sponsor is from China, Macau, Hong Kong or other places.

The proposed amendment would bar outlets from publishing referendum-related advertisements sponsored by a foreign entity or capital.

Media outlets must ask a sponsor to sign an affidavit declaring that they are not — nor is the ad paid for — by an entity registered overseas and must keep a copy of the published ad for four years.

Sponsors and media outlets that fail to comply with the proposed rules would be fined between NT$200,000 and NT$10 million, or twice the cost of the ad.

If the sponsor is a political party, legal entity or civic group, its head shall be punished, the proposed amendments say.

News outlets must include the creators or sponsors in the ads, they say.

Entities that breach this rule would face a fine of between NT$200,000 and NT$2 million, or two times the income earned for publishing the ad, they say.

Deputy Minister of Justice Tsai Pi-chung (蔡碧仲) said that the proposals were part of the Cabinet’s efforts to combat false news reports.

The Executive Yuan would publish a list of daily commodities to be regulated by the proposed amendments following interdepartmental discussions, Tsai said.

He cited as an example mass panic buying last year amid news about rising prices of tissue paper, which was shown to be the result of several supermarkets and personal care chains colluding to push up prices.

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