《TAIPEI TIMES》CECC identifies Chinese troll accounts, actions
Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau Deputy Director-General Liu Chia-jung points at a presentation slide warning the public about epidemic disinformation at a news conference at the Central Epidemic Command Center in Taipei yesterday. Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times
By Sean Lin and Jason Pan / Staff reporters
The Central Epidemic Command Center （CECC） yesterday unveiled seven duplicate Facebook accounts as well as templates used by Chinese trolls when spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 situation in Taiwan.
Of the seven accounts, two are in English: “Ye Kangzhuo” and “Wing Hong,” and five are in simplified Chinese: Hu Xin （胡鑫）, Huang Zitao （黃子濤）, Zhong Mingyuan （鐘明遠）, Sun Dachuan （孫大川） and Gao Zhao （高兆）, Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau Deputy Director-General Liu Chia-jung （劉家榮） told a news conference in Taipei.
The bureau also discovered a pattern widely used by Chinese trolls when spreading disinformation about the nation’s disease-prevention efforts, he said.
The pattern often involves fake news that are passed off as insider stories and contain alleged quotes from Taiwanese politicians, while a template usually cites a place in Taiwan where the poster’s friends or relatives allegedly live and where the government has reportedly attempted to cover up a COVID-19 outbreak, Liu said.
The bureau also uncovered a bogus Executive Yuan announcement being spread online, claiming that starting from yesterday, people could buy 10 masks at a time if they presented their National Health Insurance cards, he said.
The falsified document looks real, as it sports the same layout as an official Executive Yuan document, complete with a false signature and seal of Premier Su Tseng-chang （蘇貞昌）, he said.
Chinese trolls often share the false content on Chinese social media Web sites, such as Facebook and Sina Weibo, to elicit public responses, he said, urging people not to relay unsubstantiated information.
People can use the Taiwan FactCheck Center or Cofacts fact-checking Web sites to verify reports, Liu said.
The bureau presented five scenarios in a bid to pre-empt Chinese trolls’ next attempt to disrupt the nation’s disease-prevention efforts.
Trolls are likely to claim that the Taiwanese government is prepared to use inhumane strategies to cover up an outbreak that is out of control; that news about the government’s power wavering had percolated from a US official or think tank or forum member; and that the government clarifies disinformation on the epidemic because it fears the public would discover the truth, Liu said.
Furthermore, they are likely to edit photos to create a false image of a full outbreak in Taiwan and to falsify the government’s official documents, he said.
Separately yesterday, the Criminal Investigation Bureau （CIB） said that it has questioned 107 people who are facing pending charges on 77 cases of spreading misinformation about the disease. These included spreading rumors about a tissue paper shortage, that hundreds have died from COVID-19 infection in Taiwan and that cyanide could kill the Wuhan virus.
Such actions have breached provisions of the Communicable Disease Control Act （傳染病防治法） and the Special Act on COVID-19 Prevention, Relief and Restoration （嚴重特殊傳染性肺炎防治及紓困振興特別條例）, CIB Deputy Commissioner Chu Tsung-tai （朱宗泰） said, adding that those found guilty could be fined up to NT$3 million （US$99,245） and sentenced up to three years in prison,
CIB investigators added that they were working together with the Taipei City Government to identify the latest fake news circulating online, with one claiming that starting today, city hospitals would be handing out free masks to the public, and another saying Taiwan has developed a vaccine and starting yesterday, people can receive free shots at designated hospitals.