He said officials from the DES Ministry and the Royal Thai Police’s Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) obtained court warrants to search 15 locations and found six suspected cases related to fake news that have been causing fear and confusion.
Of the six suspects, two were charged under the 2017 Computer Crime Act’s Section 14 (2), he said. The charges were in relation to a false report about infections in Pattaya and an edited video clip of a Chinese man collapsing.
Section 14 (2) concerns the “uploading of false information into the computer system, which is bound to damage national security and cause public disorder.”
The authorities did not disclose the names of the pair arrested yesterday.
Mr Buddhipongse said the other four suspects were only given a stern warning because they did not have any malicious intent. As for another nine cases, a special task force is working on locating them because they had provided false locations.
The minister said the Anti Fake News Centre, supervised by the DES Ministry, has received 7,587 items of suspected fake news from Saturday (Jan 25) to Wednesday (Jan 29).
Most of them involved fake patients, the alleged scrapping of thermal screening at airports, allegations of the number of infections being covered up and claims that some products can kill the virus.
To counter the spread of fake news, he said the ministry was working with health authorities to produce easy-to-understand infographics for public distribution.
“When it comes to health, people will believe and share anything,” he said, urging people to check facts before they forward any content.
He also said that the Public Health Ministry has been transparent with information and is continuing to step up surveillance to prevent the spread of the virus.
The DES ministry’s anti-fake news centre, which was launched on Nov 1, intends to speed up detection and is also looking into the misuse of social-media platforms to deceive people.
These developments come after Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana on Wednesday lambasted false reports online about people in Phuket being infected with the Wuhan coronavirus (see full story here).