The government is looking into reports of Chinese disinformation campaigns seeking to undercut its authority during the current COVID-19 outbreak, and asked the public not to share false information.
National security agencies have confirmed that Beijing has ordered numerous disinformation attacks on Taiwan, Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) said.
Lo said there have been false media reports saying that Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), had plans to raise the COVID-19 alert to level 3 as early as Tuesday last week, but that Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) persuaded him to wait.
Photo courtesy of the Hualien County Police Department via CNA
Sources should be verified before information is published, Lo said, adding that the media should not become a wedge between the CECC and the premier.
Lo cited a report claiming that the disinfectant used by the Chemical Warfare Corps was highly toxic, saying that it sought to sow panic in society and undermine the public’s trust in the military.
The judiciary has forwarded the cases of six individuals involved in the alleged disinformation campaign to the courts, Lo said.
In another example, a man allegedly posted a message to a Line chat group of more than 100 users, claiming that a person linked to a cluster at a gaming arcade in Yilan County had traveled to Miaoli to attend a meeting.
The man has been summoned to give an affidavit for alleged contraventions of Article 14 of the Special Act for Prevention, Relief and Revitalization Measures for Severe Pneumonia with Novel Pathogens (嚴重特殊傳染性肺炎防治及紓困振興特別條例), the Miaoli County District Prosecutors’ Office said.
These cases are still being investigated, as all of the people summoned so far have said that the reports did not originate with them, but that they heard them from someone else, the office said.
In a separate incident in Taichung’s Wuci District (梧棲), an individual surnamed Shih (施) posted on Facebook that the outbreak could become more severe in the area because a vendor had been selling his fruit in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華).
Shih also said that the vendor had allegedly not worn a mask after his visit to Wanhua and after frequenting local clubs, resulting in three confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The Cingshuei Police Precinct said that officers located Shih and that it has forwarded his case to the district prosecutors’ office.
Disinformation spreads as fast as infection, and the public should know not to download or share misinformation, Lo said.
In another incident, the Hualien County Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) detained five people for spreading misinformation on the Line app — they claimed that infected people from Yilan County had visited Hualien.
A woman surnamed Ho (何), 55, said that she had shared the information out of concern for others and did not intend to spread misinformation.
CID Deputy Captain Han Hsiu-ai (韓修愛) said that the bureau is still investigating the incident.
Beijing’s use of disinformation and cognitive warfare is an effort to deepen internal conflicts in Taiwan, prolonging the time used to develop cures for the pandemic, decreasing Taiwanese manufacturing capability, and further destabilizing Taiwan’s economy and stock market, Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) said yesterday.
Lee urged the public to maintain solidarity to overcome the challenges presented by the outbreak.
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