By Aaron Kesel
The Bangkok Post is reporting that two individuals were arrested under Thailand’s new “Anti-Fake News Center” for spreading false information about the coronavirus which authorities have said has “induced panic.”
“The Anti-Fake News Center is compiling evidence to root out the source of fake news,” Buddhipongse said. “We’re working with the cybercrime police, but I have to admit that it’s difficult to identify suspects since they’re anonymous.”
The Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta added this was a result of a “crackdown on misleading information being posted on social media in relation to the new coronavirus.”
DES Ministry and the Royal Thai Police’s Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) obtained court warrants to search 15 locations and found that there were six suspected cases related to fake news that have been causing fear and confusion surrounding the coronavirus.
Of those six suspects, only two were charged under the 2017 Computer Crime Act’s Section 14 (2), he said. The charges were in relation to false reports about infections in Pattaya and an edited video clip of a Chinese man collapsing according to the authorities.
Section 14 (2) concerns the “uploading of false information into the computer system, which is bound to damage national security and cause public disorder.”
One of the individuals was identified by Khasodenglish who wrote, “Thitima Kongthon was arrested at her house in Bangkok’s Minburi district after she posted on her Facebook that a patient infected with the virus had died in Pattaya.”
The other, Ritthisak Wongthonglueang, was apprehended at his house in Taweewattana district. Buddhipongse said that Wongthonglueang had confessed that he posted a video of a person collapsing blaming it on the coronavirus in an unrelated incident. He added the video was posted to mislead the public according to Buddhipongse.
The two people will be charged with disseminating false information, which carries up to five years in prison if they are found guilty. Yes, you read that right — five years in prison for spreading a post online.
The Anti-Fake News Center stated it has received 7,587 complaints about the coronavirus in just a week. The center is verifying 160 cases with relevant authorities. It has so far declared 22 of them to be fake news, such as claims online that a Thai Airways flight attendant had contracted the virus.
Reuters visited the office of the Anti-Fake News Center when it launched in November of last year; the news agency said it was “set up like a war room, with monitors in the middle of the room showing charts tracking the latest ‘fake news’ and trending Twitter hashtags.”
Thailand isn’t the only country arresting people for spreading information in regards to the coronavirus that a government deems “fake.” Malaysia has also issued four arrests of its citizens for spreading rumors and “disinformation.” according to a report by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.
Those “suspects” include a tutor, two pharmacy assistants and a university student whom if found guilty will face upwards to a $12,000 fine and up to 1 year in prison if convicted.
Earlier last month China arrested 8 people who were charged with spreading rumors about a virus, before the coronavirus was publicly known. Doctors and citizens all over have been uploading a mass of unconfirmed videos that appear to be coming from infected areas, warning that China isn’t telling the truth about the virus as Activist Post reported.
Beyond that, China recently censored a media outlet Caijing, which is one of the most reputable outlets in the country. In the article the authors claim that China has significantly under reported both the cases and deaths, especially among the elderly. (archive) (translation)
At the time of this report there are officially 20,000 coronavirus cases, over 400 dead and 600 recovered according to a map by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
The fact that anyone would be arrested for spreading information not sanctioned by governments, when everyone is on edge and wondering what is happening, is in itself insanity — welcome to the Ministry Of Truth. Especially if China is lying about the official number of cases and deaths … and that’s a high probability.
Also Read From Activist Post: New Proposed Law To Jail “Anti-Vaxxers” & The CDC Fear Based Talking Points To Media Revealed!
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