Thu, Jan 10, 2019 - Page 8 News List

A lesson in fighting the spread of fake news

By Paul Liu 劉振乾

The Nikkei Shimbun has reported that the Journalism School of National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Ukraine, founded in 1615, has launched a fact-checking organization called “StopFake,” along with a Web site (stopfake.org). The organization collects evidence to expose misinformation disseminated by Russia, which is essentially at war with Ukraine, and shares the inside story with the world via independent media outlets.

The news report said that one Sunday morning the university’s television station aired the program Welcome to StopFake, which reports on news released by Russian media outlets, such as “Ukraine Becomes Drug Entry Point for Russia and Europe” and “European Court of Human Rights: Ukrainian Sailors Held by Russia not POWs.”

One by one, the organization examines the facts and scrutinizes relevant evidence, eventually debunking the fake news.

The Stopfake organization, consisting of 45 professors and graduate students, supervises 25 Russian media outlets on a regular basis and investigates suspicious information. It then uses TV and radio programs, as well as newspaper and other media outlets, to publicize details about the misinformation.

The organization releases the results of its investigations in as many as 13 languages.

Since its establishment in March 2014, the organization has exposed about 2,000 pieces of misinformation. StopFake accepts consultation requests from governments and media outlets around the world, and shares its experience.

Costing very little, but capable of causing social division, misinformation is a great bargain compared with the use of armed force.

The best preventive measures are to call for the public’s alertness to misinformation and cultivate society’s media literacy to enable the public to tell the difference between manipulated information and real news. By doing so, the threat of misinformation can be eliminated.

Students and professors in the Ukrainian university spare no effort to protect their own country. In comparison, a judge from the Nantou District Court dropped charges against a university student, surnamed You (游), who allegedly disseminated fake news on the Internet that arguably resulted in the suicide of former director-general of the Osaka branch of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office Su Chii-cherng (蘇啟誠), saying that the evidence presented by prosecutors “was insufficient to prove that social disturbance had occurred.”

The court dismissed the charges against You and delivered a not guilty verdict.

The two instances exemplify a lamentable difference in awareness of who the enemy is.

The Taipei Times published an article saying that the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology is recruiting experts for cyberwarfare and relevant research, with a monthly salary of up to NT$85,000 for employees with doctorates (“Chungshan Institute looking for cyberwarfare talent,” Jan. 1, page 3).

The news implies that the nation’s armed forces have mapped out preparatory measures for this new kind of warfare. Apart from the military sector, the government should not overlook the importance of boosting recruitment of information technology talent in the private sector, industries, academia and research institutes.

Perhaps the government should consider sending personnel to the Ukrainian university to learn from its experiences, holding discussions with domestic university research institutes, budgeting for relevant research and distilling resources to establish a Taiwanese version of the StopFake organization and augment the nation’s defensive capabilities for the new age.

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