Thai cyber police have arrested four people for allegedly spreading fake news about the COVID-19 virus, in coordinated raids in four provinces.
Cyber police armed with search warrants, raided houses in Chon Buri, Chachoengsao, Chiang Mai and Nan provinces. Cyber cops told Thai PBS these locations were where fake news about the COVID-19 virus originated.
The suspects were held in police custody before being taken to the Technology Crime Suppression Division for further questioning, Thai PBS reported.
One item of fake news, allegedly posted on social media by someone in Chon Buri, said “H3N2 spread to Chiang Mai.
The fake news about the coronavirus also caused panic among people in Chiang Mai, claimed an official.
Thai cyber police also warns members of the public about posting or share fake news on social media. Saying they will face legal action over such posts.
Meanwhile, The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging authorities to take tougher action to battle fake news on the coronavirus. Representative from the WHO travelled to Silicon Valley to speak directly to tech firms about the spread of false information.
The WHO has labelled the spread of fake news on the outbreak an “infodemic”.
Over 1,000 people have died as a result of the outbreak, which began in central China but has spread globally.
Andrew Pattison, digital business solutions manager, for the WHO said false information was “spreading faster than the virus”.
Bogus claims that the virus was spread by eating bat soup or could be cured by garlic have already swept the web.
Social Media screening fake news
Social media firms have already taken some steps to remove false claims and promote accurate information.
Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and TikTok are already directing users that search for coronavirus on their sites to the WHO or local health organisations.
People searching on Google’s search engines, meanwhile, are shown news and safety tips. Facebook has said it will use its existing network of third-party fact-checkers to debunk false claims.
Mr Pattison said this was an opportunity for these firms to rethink how they addressed fake news.
“I think what would be very exciting is to see this emergency changed into a long-term sustainable model. Where we can have responsible content on these platforms” Pattison said.
The WHO has faced criticism of its own for the way it has tried to manage the crisis.