Sat, May 25, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Lawmakers crack down on food, disease fake news

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan bangs his gavel to mark the passage of amendments to the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation following a third reading at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

In the latest legislative effort to combat false news reports, lawmakers yesterday introduced jail time for people who spread false information about food safety and a significantly raised maximum fine of NT$3 million (US$95,178) for people who disseminate misinformation about communicable diseases.

The Legislative Yuan yesterday passed amendments to the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法) and the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法), which set forth the new penalties.

Under the amended food safety act, people who intentionally spread false information about food safety issues that consequently incur damage to the public or another person face a maximum prison term of three years or a fine of NT$1 million.

It previously did not include penalties for people who spread false information about food safety issues.

The amended communicable disease act stipulates a maximum fine of NT$3 million — up from NT$500,000 — for those who spread misinformation that an outbreak of a communicable disease has occurred.

Individuals or organizations that spread erroneous information through the media about a communicable disease or misinformation about a central disease control command center during an outbreak of a communicable disease and fail to correct the errors immediately would face a fine of between NT$100,000 and NT$1 million.

Academic institutions that spread misinformation about communicable diseases or an outbreak through the media and fail to make corrections risk an additional fine of between NT$300,000 and NT$2 million.

A physician who detects a possible carrier of a communicable disease while performing treatment or an autopsy, but does not report the situation to the local health authority risks a fine of between NT$90,000 and NT$450,000, and an additional NT$300,000 to NT$2 million if they attempt to obstruct efforts to quarantine potential carriers of the diseases.

The Cabinet, which proposed both amendments, defines “intentional” spread of disinformation as fabricating rumors, distorting or tampering with statistics, and advertisements about incidents that can be proven to be partially or entirely false.

The legislature earlier this month approved stiffened penalties for people who spread disinformation about disasters, including a life sentence if the reports lead to death.

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