TFC weekly monitoring report, April 17-23, 2023

TFC weekly monitoring report, April 17-23, 2023

In the past week (April 17- 23), according to the monitoring of the Taiwan FactCheck Center (TFC), four types of claims were trending online.

Disinformation about Chinese military exercises

The TFC has released two fact-checks in the past week related to the Chinese military exercises from April 8th to 10th.

One of the fact-checks caused discussions in political talk shows. It referenced a vessel path map of the US aircraft carrier Nimitz from an independent Vietnamese journalist, claiming that "the US ship retreated towards Japan when the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong approached." 

Screenshot of the Facebook post. 

The map was claimed to be based on information from the Japanese Ministry of Defense and the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense. However, neither of these units had published such information. The information was the estimate of the independent journalist.

Military experts also pointed out the two ships were moving apart, possibly due to diplomatic and military considerations. The Nimitz was still in the area and did not retreat.

The other video claimed to capture "a Chinese missile flying over the central mountain range." However, the video appeared online last August and was unrelated to the recent military exercise. Read our fact-check here.

Screenshot of the Facebook post. 

Experts explained that ballistic missiles fly in a parabolic path, with a height and speed far beyond the range observable by the human eye. Additionally, the single-stage rocket engine would stop working after the lift-off phase and could not produce the horizontal contrail in the video. The claim was unreasonable.

Furthermore, TFC’s fact-checkers examined the vehicles and types of cars in the parking shed in the video and found the license plate format did not match that of Taiwan. Therefore, the video was likely not shot in Taiwan.

Disinformation about travel safety

A rumor accompanied by a highly violent video urging people not to travel to Thailand because "600,000 people have been kidnapped and missing." The TFC traced the source of the video and found that it was pieced together from three unrelated events, completely unrelated to Thailand.

Here is our fact-check.

Sure and Share, the Thai fact-checker, helped us review the video and pointed out that the voiceover in the video was not in Thai. 

The rumor claiming "600,000 Asian tourists went missing" is also unreasonable, as such a large number of missing people would attract media attention. Still, there are currently no such reports in Thailand. 

Websites of East Asian countries' embassies, including Malaysia, Singapore, and China, have not issued any travel warnings related to missing persons or security issues in Thailand since 2022.

This false warning about public safety in Thailand is very alarming, especially when paired with a video of organ harvesting and child kidnapping, which is more likely to cause panic among the public. Several Chinese influencers spread similar narratives on Duoyin (the Chinese version of TikTok), urging people not to go to Thailand, which sparked colossal controversy online.

Sure and Share pointed out that there were indeed three recent incidents in which Chinese nationals were victims but were not "tourists being kidnapped, missing or having their organs cut." 

Disinformation about public safety

The TFC also observed that at least six false warnings about public safety have been circulating since April, causing worries and unease among the public. However, the events or the crime methods mentioned are illogical and fictional.

In the past, the TFC has observed that false rumors about public safety increase before major elections in Taiwan or when significant events break out. The motive for spreading such fictional false rumors is yet unclear.

Disinformation about Mpox

Due to the surge of Mpox (monkeypox) cases in places like Taoyuan, false rumors about Mpox began to spread, including the claim that urged people to avoid specific places such as saunas, hotels, and gyms.

Experts said the Mpox virus is primarily spread through close or intimate contact with Mpox patients. Currently, there is no research indicating that Mpox transmission is related to swimming pools or hot spring water. The TFC also compiled ten frequently asked questions about Mpox here.