Taiwan cracks down on fake news about China coronavirus

False reports allege coronavirus patients confirmed at certain hospitals

The CIB is cracking down on false rumors about coronavirus outbreaks. 

The CIB is cracking down on false rumors about coronavirus outbreaks.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) has been looking at six suspects in the spreading of false rumors about the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, reports said Friday (Jan. 31).

So far, Taiwan has confirmed nine cases of the virus, which has spread from the Chinese city of Wuhan around the world. Most of the patients were in stable condition, according to the health authorities.

China’s total of cases was approaching 10,000, with the official number of deaths exceeding 200.

One of the items posted in a Line group said a coronavirus patient had been transferred to a hospital in Yilan County, but the news proved to be false. The CIB questioned a suspect who admitted not having checked his sources, reports said.

The man apologized for having spread fear in the northeastern county, but will still be dealt with according to legislation specifically designed to counter fake news about outbreaks of dangerous diseases. The maximum fine stands at NT$3 million (US$99,000), CNA reported.

A similar incident also happened on Facebook, with a posting alleging a patient at a Chiayi hospital had been confirmed as a coronavirus case. The investigation traced the false report to a woman in Yunlin County, the CIB said.

Other false online reports made similar accusations about patients staying at a certain hospital or living in a certain neighborhood, or made allegations about extraordinarily high prices for surgical masks, according to media reports.

All news about the virus outbreak would be issued by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), CNA reported.