Tue, Oct 23, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Hospital files defamation charges against netizens

By Lo Cheng-ming and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with Staff writer

A hospital in Taoyuan County has filed defamation charges against netizens who reposted an online article that had erroneously pinned a case of misdiagnosis on it.

On Oct. 4, an article appeared on the Internet accusing a hospital, without giving its name, in Taoyuan’s Chungli City (中壢) of mistakenly diagnosing a female junior-high school student, surnamed Yu (游), who had sought medical assistance there.

As the article was reposted, some netizens incorporated fabricated content into the original version, misattributing the incident to the Landseed Hospital, which the article said was located in the county’s Chungli, and its proprietor, Chang Huan-chen (張煥禎).

A sentence alleging that Chang had demanded that the story be withdrawn was also added.

The hospital decided to press charges against whoever shared the article to hold netizens accountable for the content they published on the Internet.

“We went through all our medical records in an attempt to verify the article. No one with that surname was found to have sought outpatient treatment at our facility,” the hospital said.

“Most importantly, the Landseed Hospital is located in Pingjhen (平鎮), rather than in Chungli as some netizens claimed,” the hospital said. “The fabricated version is outright wrong, yet it had been widely shared, which is why we decided to take those who had spread the story to court.”

The hospital added that as no reference to the Landseed Hospital was made in the original version, it would not demand the article’s removal from the Internet.

A preliminary search by the hospital found that the falsified version of the article has been posted on at least four online forums, including Cartino, QOOS, 94im and 105life.

As most netizens who had shared the article registered on these Web sites may have already deleted their posts, the hospital is trying to identify them by tracking their IP addresses.

The hospital is still ascertaining the actual number of netizens involved in the case.

Landseed Hospital superintendent Huang Chung-chih (黃忠智) said the hospital has entrusted a counselor to take legal action in a bid to safeguard the reputations of both the facility and Chang.

“Netizens are advised against arbitrarily sharing stories without any prior verification to avoid breaking the law and ought to take full responsibility for their remarks on the Internet,” Huang said.

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