Authorities have been investigating a spate of rumors and misinformation related to the COVID-19 outbreak, with prosecutors yesterday questioning five people for allegedly disseminating messages claiming that a new virus case involves military personnel at Hsinchu Air Force Base.
An investigation was initiated after verifying with health authorities and base officials that the messages are false, Hsinchu City Police Precinct Chief Teng Hsueh-hsin (鄧學鑫) said.
“The messages began circulating on Wednesday on [messaging app] Line groups and other social media platforms,” Teng said. “Five suspects, including a man surnamed Yu (余), were identified and detained.”
Photo copied by Tsai Chang-sheng, Taipei Times
Police later transferred the five to prosecutors for questioning, he said, adding that they face charges for spreading rumors and misinformation under Article 63 of the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法), which carries fines of up to NT$3 million (US$98,674).
In Taipei, Criminal Investigation Bureau officers questioned a teenager, who allegedly spread rumors and misinformation about the virus on social media.
Central Epidemic Command Center staff monitoring social media and online news related to COVID-19 reported the girl’s activity. The junior-high school student became the nation’s youngest person to be investigated for spreading rumors and misinformation about the disease.
“The girl shared a message on video-sharing platform TikTok claiming that ‘hundreds of people in Taiwan have died from the Wuhan virus,’ which was accompanied by pictures,” an official said.
The girl reportedly admitted to producing the message and was quoted as saying that she did it to boost the number of her subscribers.
Police urged parents to check their children’s Internet and social media usage, and warn them against disseminating rumors and misinformation.
In other developments, the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau on Thursday detained two men who allegedly said on Facebook that a relative of Taiwan’s 19th confirmed case, who was the nation’s first fatality from COVID-19, was being treated at a hospital in Taichung’s Fongyuan District (豐原).
After verifying with local health authorities that the claim was false, bureau officials said that they identified the two men, who face charges.
Taipei police yesterday also questioned a man surnamed Liu (劉) for allegedly spreading a rumor on Facebook that a woman in her 60s was taken to a hospital in Nangang District (南港) and that “she is reportedly a confirmed case, so everyone please take precautions.”
After verifying that the information was false, police located Liu, who is to face charges for breaching Article 63 of the act.
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