Hong Kong man arrested on suspicion of spreading fake news on social media

Protesters holding up lighted mobile phones and US flags in Hong Kong, on Oct 14, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

HONG KONG, Jul 25, 2020, SCMP. Hong Kong police have arrested a man on suspicion of spreading fake news online about government policies or social issues, South China Morning Post reported.

The force appealed to the public to be alert to unfounded rumours, after arresting the 39-year-old in his Tsing Yi residence in the early hours of Saturday. Officers also seized his mobile.

Superintendent Tam Wai-shun said police had received reports about misinformation that was being circulated on social media about the government’s cash payout scheme, the city’s coronavirus measures, and other social issues.

But Tam would not reveal the contents of the messages the man is accused of spreading, because the investigation was ongoing.

The Post has been told the force had received a number of reports regarding the spread of fake news, including one message that said the government was going to enforce extreme social-distancing measures to combat Covid-19, including imposing a curfew on the city.

“People with ill intention have been spreading rumours and erroneous information, and a lot of citizens have bought into the unfounded claims, leading to unnecessary misunderstanding or even fear,” Tam said.
“I want to emphasise that the number of followers of a piece of information does not guarantee its credibility.”

He called on the public to try to verify any suspicious messages they received, and to pay attention to updates published by the government officials to avoid being misled.

Under the Summary Offences Ordinance, anyone who sends any message they know to be false causing annoyance, inconvenience, or needless anxiety to anyone through telephone calls, messages or telegrams, is liable to a fine of HK$1,000 and two months in jail.

In February, police arrested a man for spreading fake news about Covid-19, after a part-time security guard claimed on social media that several people working at a shopping centre in Austin had come down with a fever and had called in sick, accusing them of being infected with the pandemic.

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