Beijing-based PTT users spread fake Osaka airport bus story

Beijing-based users flooded PTT with fake news about Osaka airport buses, fed media storm culminating in Taiwanese representative's suicide

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Admin announces PTT not accepting new users. (PTT screenshot)

Admin announces PTT not accepting new users. (PTT screenshot)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Professional Technology Temple (PTT), the most popular online bulletin board in Taiwan, has announced it is suspending applications for new accounts, after it has been discovered that users in China helped spread false news on the platform, in turn feeding the media storm of criticism that may have compelled the director of the Taiwan representative office in Japan to commit suicide last week.

On Sept. 4, Typhoon Jebi hammered Osaka's Kansai International Airport, causing extensive flooding, and to make things worse, a tanker smashed into the causeway that connected the artificial island it sits on with the city of Osaka. Over 3,000 passengers found themselves stranded at the airport, including 750 Chinese and 500 Taiwanese.

On Sept. 6, a user of PTT started a thread titled "Does anyone have any gossip about Chinese passengers getting on the buses first at the Kansai International Airport?" PTT users under the thread then posted fake news from the state-run media outlets such as the Global Times and Guancha.cn erroneously reporting that the Chinese embassy had dispatched 15 buses to pick up Chinese passengers at the Kansai airport.

The second component of the fake news being generated by Chinese media and shared on the PTT thread was that Chinese passengers were only letting Taiwanese board the busses if they declared that they were "Chinese."

In fact, the Chinese embassy had requested that buses be sent to the Kansai airport, but it was rejected by Japanese officials, according to the Taiwan FactCheck Center. Instead, the airport itself made all arrangements for buses and sent passengers to a transit terminal in a mall in Osaka Prefecture's Izumisano City.

It is a fact that the Chinese embassy did send buses, but they were actually sent to the transit center at the mall in Izumisano, not the Kansai Airport. The claim that Taiwanese were forced to declare themselves Chinese was refuted by multiple Taiwanese witnesses who came forward in PTT and cited by Apple Daily.

After an investigation of the incident by members of PTT, it was discovered that the originator of the Kansai airport thread and many subsequent posts of false news reports from Chinese media had the same Beijing-based IP provided by China Unicom, which they identified as 221.219.231.115.

On Friday (Sept. 14), Su Chii-cherng (蘇啓誠), the Director General of the Taiwan Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in Osaka, Japan, unexpectedly died from an apparent suicide. Japanese media reported that he left a suicide note in which he described how miserable he felt after receiving so much criticism of his office's handling of the evacuation of stranded Taiwanese passengers from the Kansai airport.

Later that evening, PTT's system administrator announced that new applications for accounts would be put on hold, while those already under review would continue to be processed. The administrator said that another announcement would be released when the system was open to new applications again.