Cups of tea are pictured on tea leaves in an undated photograph. Photo: Yang Yuan-ting, Taipei Times

By Jonathan Chin / Staff writer

A claim that green tea lemonade can cure COVID-19 was Taiwan's most widespread false report of the year, Line Corp wrote yesterday in a ranking of the top five rumors shared on its Line messaging app.

The second-most shared false report was a phishing scam offering phony pandemic relief checks in exchange for personal information, the company said, citing data collected by Line's digital responsibility program from Jan. 1 to Nov. 30.

The third-biggest report was a rumor that free-range chicken eggs sold in markets across Taiwan were fabricated by injecting coloring agents into battery-farmed eggs, it said.

Fourth were earthquake survival tips that recommended opening doors and windows, shutting off gas valves and seeking safety using the so-called “triangle of life” method, it said.

The government's earthquake survival guidelines state that the immediate action to take during an earthquake is to drop low, take cover and hold on while paying special attention to protecting the head and staying away from windows, the company said.

Erroneous information about purchased changes to methods of payment for utility bills — including a three-step process to pay electricity bills — was also prevalent, it said.

The digital responsibility project was a joint creation of the company, the government and local fact-checkers, including the Taiwan FactCheck Center, MyGoPen, Cofacts, Rum Toast and the Science Media Taiwan Center, Line Corp said.

The program has identified 140,000 instances of false information via 600,000 user-generated reports since its launch in 2019, Line Corp said, adding that it began publishing the top-five fake news stories list a year after that.

The top untrue stories from last year included rumors that COVID-19 vaccination surveys could conceal phishing attacks, fake health tips about fruit and vegetables, and cells being declared a cause of cancer by the WHO, among others, it said.

News source: TAIPEI TIMES