Countries Across The World Are Cracking Down Spread Of Fake News About Covid-19 On 1 Apr, Including Thailand & Taiwan

April Fools’ Day is usually celebrated with practical jokes on friends, but it’s looking a little bleak this year amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

While we could use a bit of joy and laughter in this trying period, we should draw the line at jokes on Covid-19, as the pandemic definitely is no laughing matter.

For those who still want to try, governments around the world have issued statements on various social media platforms to remind people not to make jokes about Covid-19.

They’re dead serious about it too — spreading fake news about Covid-19 on April Fools’ Day could land you a fine or a jail term that definitely isn’t a joke.

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Thailand will charge purveyors of fake news about Covid-19

According to a report from Channel NewsAsia (CNA), multiple countries have come forward to warn citizens against spreading fake Covid-19 news or reports on 1 Apr.

Thailand informed its citizens on Tuesday (31 Mar) that those who circulate fake news on Covid-19 through any media channel will be charged.

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According to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD), aka the cyber police, folks who spread false information about the virus online – including resharing – can potentially face jail time of up to 5 years and/or a 100,000 baht (S$4,300) fine.

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This wrongdoing falls under Thailand’s Cybercrime Act section 14(2) and (5) – regarding putting and forwarding false data online that could “cause panic” to the public.

Taiwan’s President uses cute critter to get message across

Similarly, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen even took to Facebook on Tuesday (31 Mar) to tell the Taiwanese that spreading fake news on Covid-19 wouldn’t be taken lightly.

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The graphic says:

You can show your sense of humour on 1 Apr, but you can’t take Covid-19 as a joke. Beware! Spreading fake news on Covid-19 is illegal. Share this picture, ensure April Fools’ Day is healthy and safe.

As the cute cat in her post tells us: “This isn’t funny.”

We couldn’t agree more. A fine of NT$3 million (S$141,900) and/or a jail term of 3 years isn’t funny at all.

Indian state will crack down on Covid-19 jokes

Mr Anil Deshmukh, the Home Minister of India’s state of Maharashtra doesn’t take Covid-19 jokes lightly either.

In a tweet on Tuesday (31 Mar), he said the state’s cyber security unit will crack down on people who spread rumours and panic on the coronavirus.

 

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Accordingly, the state’s cyber security unit posted a series of tweets advising against such jokes and saying it would take legal action against purveyors of fake news.

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Germany sees no humour in Covid-19 jokes

Germany’s Health Ministry, facing a serious outbreak in the country, also took to Twitter to warn against Covid-19 jokes.

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With the graphic titled “Corona is no joke”, the ministry said:

In the current situation, we kindly ask you to do without invented stories on the corona virus on 1 Apr. This minimises the risk that the fight against the virus is made difficult by incorrect information on the subject.

No more April Fools’ gags for Google

Even Google, famous for their April Fools’ gags, has taken a stand against practical jokes this year.

They’ve made the decision to put the annual tradition on hold “out of respect for all those fighting the COVID-19 pandemic”, reported The Independent.

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Google’s head of marketing Lorraine Twohill was quoted as saying in a memo:

Our highest goal right now is to be helpful to people, so let’s save the jokes for next April, which will undoubtedly be a whole lot brighter than this one.

False information spreads easily through the Internet

It’s undeniable that fake news and false information is spread mainly via the Internet, and social media.

Whether it’s a chain message from a WhatsApp “coronavirus expert” or a convincing — but fake — email from our Prime Minister, it’s exceedingly easy to get taken in by fake news if we’re not careful.

Do be aware of what you’re sharing on social media, and what you’re receiving as well. Not all messages are completely fallacious, but we should still take everything we read with a pinch of salt.

We’re not sure whether there are similar penalties in Singapore or not, but nevertheless please do not joke about having Covid-19. It’s insensitive and irresponsible, and certainly not what we should be doing as a community to prevent the situation from worsening further.

Stay vigilant and be extra cautious if you go out. The next few weeks are predicted to be crucial to how Covid-19 plays out, so let’s all do our part to make sure the we win this battle, and the war.

Featured image adapted from Twitter and Facebook