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Taiwan decries ‘massive COVID cremations’ story as it fights disinformation

Country targeted by fake accounts spreading disinformation amid local COVID-19 surge

Fake COVID stories (CECC image)

Fake COVID stories (CECC image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Fake news is springing up and circulating online as Taiwan battles a fresh COVID-19 outbreak that has seen local cases jump, the authorities have warned.

At a news briefing on Monday (May 24), Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) Deputy Chief Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥) cautioned the public against falling for disinformation.

A fake Twitter account posing as Taiwanese newspaper the Liberty Times has been spreading the false story that “Taipei and New Taipei have become ghost towns, with 20,000 people going missing and massive cremations taking place for COVID victims from Wanhua.” Wanhua District has been a hotspot amid the outbreak, accounting for the majority of cases in the capital.

Other examples of pandemic-related misinformation include “Leaked dialogues between doctors suggest COVID data being doctored,” and “COVID bodies dumped in rivers amid overwhelmed hospital morgues,” Chen revealed.

While debunking the claims, the official noted that the stories have been found to be disseminated by accounts with foreign IP addresses. He called on the public to be vigilant against the disinformation, which often includes terms used in China, simplified Chinese, and exaggerated depictions of how COVID-19 is being handled in Taiwan.

The disinformation campaign is aimed at jeopardizing the country’s disease prevention efforts as it scrambles to contain its worst-ever outbreak, he said. People are advised to seek official sources, and Chen warned spreading false information could incur a fine of up to NT$3 million (US$107,395) or a three-year prison sentence.

Updated : 2021-06-25 09:09 GMT+08:00