TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A Taiwanese netizen now faces charges after he started a false rumor on Thursday (Dec. 6) that a building at the Port of Kaohsiung had collapsed, reported UDN.
On Thursday, a 34-year-old netizen, identified as Fan Chiang (范姜), posted a message on the Facebook group Breaking News Commune (爆料公社) showing images of a steel structure seemingly bent and lying on the ground with the text "The Port Service Tower has collapsed on the seaside road." Many netizens soon believed that an accident occurred, but after local media verified with the Kaohsiung Fire Department and the Lingya Precinct of the Kaohsiung Police department that no accidents occurred, a search began to find the source of the rumor.
Kaohsiung Port Police found that the netizen lived in New Taipei City and the Sanxia Precinct of the New Taipei City Police Department coordinated with them to track down the person responsible for the post. Sanxia District police traced the post to Fan Chiang, a resident of New Taipei City's Yingge District, and at 10 a.m. yesterday (Dec. 7) he went into the police station for questioning.
Before going in for questioning, Fan Chiang released a second post in which he showed information about the finished project and wrote:
"Regarding the latest post, in fact I did not verify what had occurred and caused everyone to misunderstand. It is my responsibility for spreading fake news. I will go to the police department to explain. I'm very sorry."
When Fan Chiang spoke to police he had a cooperative attitude and said that a friend from southern Taiwan had sent it to him and he thought it was true, but he did not check with his friend to confirm its veracity.
It was only after netizens on Facebook started to panic about the "collapse," did Fan Chiang decide to double check with his friend, who told him it was a joke. He says he then deleted the post, but it was too late, as it had already gone viral on the internet.
Fan Chiang told police he was very sorry for the panic caused by spreading unconfirmed information.
Kaohsiung Port Police said that because he disseminated the news with our first verifying it, he will be charged for "spreading rumors enough to affect public peace" under Article 63 of the Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法). For spreading false news, he could be detained for up to three days or fined up to NT$30,000 (US$969).
The building in question, the Kaohsiung Port Terminal (高雄港埠旅運中心), is actually still under construction and features a very unconventional design with sections bent at odd angles. The structure is slated for completion in December of next year and will be 726 meters wide.
Straddling Piers No. 17 - 21, the complex will serve as a berthing dock for cruise ships coming and going from the country. It will also include duty-free shops, catering spaces, and sightseeing platforms in the interior.
The total cost of the project is NT$4.5 billion.
Original post claiming building had collapsed. (Screenshot from 爆料公社)
Fan Chiang's second post. (Image from 爆料公社)
Project as it currently appears. (Photo from Port of Kaohsiung, International Ports Corporation).