A rumor circulating on social media about the government donating NT$1 billion (US$32.1 million) to support massive street protests in Hong Kong is “totally fake,” the Presidential Office said yesterday.
Police have been asked to investigate the misinformation, which has been making the rounds on social media since Tuesday, office spokesman Ting Yun-kung (丁允恭) said.
The allegation first appeared on a Facebook account that was also responsible for spreading false rumors to influence last year’s nine-in-one elections, in which the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suffered crushing defeats, Ting said.
False allegations could pose a threat to national security and the development of democracy in Taiwan, and could affect next year’s presidential election, he said while accompanying President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on a visit to Chih Nan Temple (指南宮) in Taipei’s Wenshan District (文山).
Taiwanese should be vigilant against potential malicious attacks in the form of false information originating from other nations, he added.
The Criminal Investigation Bureau said that it received a report on Wednesday from the Presidential Office that a Facebook user named Li Chieh (李杰) was spreading false information about the Tsai administration.
In a post on Tuesday, Li wrote that while Tsai’s administration had not spent a dollar on dengue fever prevention in Kaohsiung, it had donated NT$1 billion in support of the “violent” protests in Hong Kong, the bureau said.
The bureau told the Central News Agency that Li’s IP address was in Singapore, as was that of another Facebook user named Li Jung-kuei (李榮貴), who had spread false rumors in the run-up to last year’s elections.
In one of his posts last year, Li Jung-kuei said that then-DPP Kaohsiung mayoral candidate Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) and his father had NT$2.2 billion of overseas assets, the bureau said.
Chen later lost the election to Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
It is likely that both Lis are the same person, as their IP addresses are both in Singapore, they use the same profile photograph on Facebook and their modus operandi to spread false rumors is similar, the bureau said.
The bureau said that it had investigated 171 cases of false news between June and Nov. 24 last year, as well as 20 cases from January to last month.
With the approach of the presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 11 next year, it is likely that the incidence of misinformation would increase, it said.
To prevent interference in elections, the government has set up a 54-member task force to identify sources of misinformation and try to prevent its spread, it added.
The bureau said that it is also working with Google and Facebook to combat misinformation.
Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Hong Kong to protest against a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed people in the territory to be sent to China to face trial.
The protesters called for the bill to be withdrawn, citing widespread concerns over a lack of trust in China’s judiciary system.
On Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) offered a “sincere and solemn” apology to the public and said that unless her government could address concerns about the draft law, it would “not proceed with the legislative exercise again.”
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