The administrator of two Facebook groups has been sentenced to three months in prison for spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 situation in Taiwan.
Hualien resident Yin Yuan-cheng (尹垣程), 37, has been managing the “Di Bar Central Force” and “Di Bar Base” Facebook groups since 2016, prosecutors said.
Yin, who is Taiwanese, and his Chinese wife, Liu Hui (劉慧), have been spreading misinformation about disease prevention on the Di Bar group, they said.
Photo: Screen grab from Facebook
Other Facebook users have frequently filed complaints against Yin for targeting people who are anti-China and pro-Taiwanese independence, prosecutors said, adding that he opened more than 20 accounts under false names after his account was suspended by Facebook.
Yin and Liu traveled to China in August 2019 to receive propaganda training, the Hualien District Court indictment said, adding that following their return, they allegedly spread misinformation in the run-up to Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election, as well as from January to March 2020 amid the COVID-19 outbreak, which prosecutors said interfered with Taiwan’s disease prevention policies.
The couple were arrested in December 2020. Yin at the time denied any wrongdoing, saying he was “joking” and did not pay attention to the articles he shared, prosecutors said.
Yin approved some of the posts on the groups that he administered, while rejecting others, which shows that he spread misinformation intentionally, they said.
The indictment listed the rumors the two allegedly spread on Facebook, such as “according to secret information, a company spread the virus that caused the outbreak [in Taiwan]” and “former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) has died from COVID-19.”
The couple later pleaded guilty and were given a lighter sentence under a plea bargain.
Yin was sentenced to three months in prison for contravening 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).
He was also found guilty of forgery and sentenced to 50 days of criminal detention, while Liu was sentenced to 40 days of criminal detention for the same crime. The sentences were suspended for two years and can be commuted to a fine.
Shen Pao-yang (沈伯洋), an assistant professor at National Taipei University’s Graduate School of Criminology, said on Saturday that Di Bar’s forged documents and misinformation were easy to see through.
He said Di Bar allegedly had ties to the Communist Youth League of China and targeted people upon instructions from the league.
Additional reporting by Chen Yu-fu
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