Fri, Jun 28, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Bill toughens fake news penalty

PUBLIC DAMAGE:The Cabinet-approved bill provides clarity on repeat offenders of the law on intentionally spreading false information about animal diseases

Staff writer, with CNA

The Executive Yuan yesterday passed a draft amendment designed to toughen punishments for people who intentionally spread false information about animal diseases.

The proposed amendment to the Act for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Disease (動物傳染病防治條例) states that anyone who disseminates rumors or false information relating to animal diseases and causes damage to the public could be fined between NT$50,000 and NT$1 million (US$1,608 and US$32,153) for each violation.

Article 43 of the statute currently stipulates a fine of between NT$50,000 and NT$1 million, but is not clear on repeat offenses.

The bill also seeks to provide a clear set of criteria to determine what kind of behavior constitutes such an offense, including having the intent to spread wholly or partially fabricated or false information through the Internet or media and causing damage to the general public or individuals.

However, those who unintentionally spread false information because they thought it might be true would be exempt from punishment, because “they lack intent,” Deputy Minister of Agriculture Chen Tain-shou (陳添壽) told a news conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting.

To minimize the chances of animal diseases entering Taiwan via online shopping, the draft amendment would give the authorities the power to demand that those who place online ads about imported products requiring quarantine, e-commerce platform providers and other related businesses take precautionary measures.

This includes putting disease prevention warnings on packages and the personal information of advertisers, sellers and buyers, the bill states.

The passage of the bill comes at a time when Taiwan is facing challenges due to the spread of African swine fever in China, North Korea and some Southeast Asian nations, and is seeking status as a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD)-free country without vaccination, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said at the Cabinet meeting.

“This is a critical moment, so we must ensure watertight prevention of animal diseases in order to protect our industries and safeguard our people’s livelihoods,” Su said.

The government is hoping to obtain the World Organisation for Animal Health’s recognition of Taiwan as an FMD-free country without vaccination in May next year, after an outbreak of the disease in 1997 triggered a ban on exports of its fresh pork products.

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