Judicial authorities yesterday took three men into custody for questioning in connection with a spate of panic buying at some supermarkets.
The Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau (MJIB) said that two of those detained are cousins — one man surnamed Tsai (蔡), 46, and another surnamed Chang (張), 38, both of Taipei — and the other man is the director of a cultural promotion organization registered in New Taipei City.
The panic buying was sparked by a message posted on Tuesday on Professional Technology Temple, the nation’s most popular electronic bulletin board system, which was then disseminated to other social media platforms.
“I have received some important information that people should prepare to stockpile enough food and daily necessities to last for one month, while they should also immediately go to the bank and withdraw all their money,” the message said.
Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) officer Chen Chiung-chao (陳炯昭) said that the post was traced to Chang, who read it on a family message group on Line after it was posted by Tsai.
Tsai said that he posted the message on Line after reading an article on a blog, which the CIB traced to the director of the cultural promotion organization, also surnamed Chang (張).
When questioned, the cousins said that they circulated the message to their family and friends as a way of reminding them about a serious situation and that it was not done with malevolence.
They posted it on other Line groups to initiate discussion and exchange opinions on the matter, they said.
After taking statements from the three men and reviewing the evidence, MJIB Fake News Prevention and Control Center deputy head Liu Chia-jung (劉家榮) said the three men would be charged for contravening the Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法) and Article 125-1 of the Banking Act (銀行法).
“The MJIB will continue to investigate this case, to determine if there are foreign sources involved in spreading this fake news, since it aimed to manipulate people’s fear and anxiety over the coronavirus outbreak, to cause disruption to the supply of goods and sow disorder in society,” Liu said. “We urge the public not to disseminate fake news and disinformation, as perpetrators will face criminal prosecution.”
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