More than 20 million Thais shared so-called fake news on the internet during the past nine months, according to the Ministry of Digital, Economy and Society (DES), which said in that same period it monitored more than 145 million messages from online platforms.
The findings were disclosed by DES Minister Chaiwut Thanakhamanusorn as he addressed a forum in Chiang Rai to raise public awareness about the online dissemination of misinformation.
Mr Thanakhamanusorn said fake news and distorted information had caused confusion among the public, which has affected COVID-19 control efforts.
The ministry’s Anti-Fake News Centre (AFNC) found that 587,039 people posted fake news between October 2020 and June 2021 and disinformation was shared by 20,294,635 people.
Of those who spread false information, more than 90% were aged between 18-34, Mr Thanakhamanusorn said.
During the nine months, the AFNC had monitored a total of 145,515,605 messages from online platforms. Of them, 13,165 messages met the criteria for an investigation and 5,010 messages required investigation.
Mr Thanakhamanusorn said the AFNC helped counter disinformation by supplying accurate information from related agencies to the public. He said the centre also worked closely with the Royal Thai Police in tackling so-called fake news and taking legal action against people spreading such information.
He said provinces may have to set up their own anti-fake news centres to deal with the spread of fake news and keep the public properly informed.
“The public should be aware that sharing fake news can land themselves in legal trouble. They may face charges under the computer crime law and the emergency decree put in place for the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
The government recently issued new restrictions under the emergency decree that it says is aimed at preventing the distortion of information that may cause misunderstandings during a health crisis. Violators are liable to a jail term of no more than two years and/or a fine of no more than 40,000 baht.
Earlier, Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen, a deputy spokesman for the Royal Thai Police, said that about 50 people had been prosecuted on charges of spreading fake news about the COVID-19 outbreak and vaccines last month.