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One-fourth of coronavirus misinformation in Taiwan comes from Chinese trolls: CIB

China waging fake news campaign to incite unrest in Taiwan amid COVID-19 pandemic

CIB spokesperson speaks at a press conference. 

CIB spokesperson speaks at a press conference.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China is spreading false information about the coronavirus throughout Taiwan in an effort to incite unrest, according to government officials, with nearly one in four cases of misinformation believed to be the work of Chinese internet trolls.

The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Monday (March 23) warned of a recent spike in misinformation regarding the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) and said it has brought this to the attention of the country's law enforcement.

Of the 310 people busted by the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB), 210 people have been prosecuted for creating or reposting misinformation on social media platforms and online forums. The bureau believes Chinese trolls were involved in one-fourth of these cases.

The CIB revealed a list of IDs involved in disseminating misinformation, including "Seediq Bale" (賽德克巴萊), who invented a story aimed at creating panic among parents of school kids, and "Meng Fang-lung" (孟繁瓏), who continues to spread sensational fake news on Facebook, some of which were written in the simplified Chinese script used in China.

The bureau found that the 72 most notorious creators of misinformation are located outside Taiwan, based on their IP addresses, which range from Hong Kong and China to Japan and the United States. It said the likelihood is high that the trolls are Chinese, as their posts frequently contain phrases used in China as well as simplified characters.

The bureau is once again urging the public to be mindful of the legal consequences of spreading falsehoods about the Wuhan virus on social media. A new rule that went into effect in late February stipulates that people spreading misinformation face a maximum jail sentence of three years or a fine of up to NT$3 million (US$99139).