DOJ: Spread Ebola rumors online, go to jail
MANILA, Philippines–Beware. Spreading rumors or false information about Ebola online or sharing such information on social media can land you in jail, warned Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
The government will prosecute those spreading false information online claiming that Ebola had already entered the country, De Lima said yesterday.
As of first week of November, at least 13,268 cases and 4,960 deaths from the Ebola virus had been reported worldwide, majority of them in West Africa.
On the request of the Department of Health (DOH), De Lima said she had asked the National Bureau of Investigation to find the people behind what she described as “hoax” online reports claiming that the country already has confirmed Ebola cases in Quezon City.
De Lima said the people behind the hoax and those spreading it on social media and other websites may be prosecuted under Presidential Decree No. 90, which penalizes rumor-mongering and spreading false information with a jail term ranging from six months and one day, to six years.
If committed online, the offense would merit a higher penalty under Republic Act No. 10175, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
“Under the Cybercrime Prevention Act, all crimes defined and penalized by the Revised Penal Code and special laws, if committed by, through and with the use of information and communication technologies are covered by the relevant provisions of said law,” De Lima said.
The health department earlier denied an online report over Viral Ninja (safeurlpath.com) quoting a DOH employee named “Gemma Sheridan” as saying that 18 Ebola cases had been confirmed in Quezon City. The report was reposted on social media networks and went viral a few days ago.
The DOH said the entire report was a lie and it did not have an employee named Gemma Sheridan.
“We’re looking into that (hoax). That’s actionable, that’s contrary to law,” the justice secretary told reporters, adding that she had tasked the DOJ Office of Cybercrime and NBI Anti-Cybercrime Division to investigate.–Jerome Aning
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