Tue, Sep 10, 2019 - Page 8 News List

China media war a timely warning

By Hu Yuan-hui 胡元輝

Social media companies including Facebook have repeatedly called for close cooperation with law enforcement agencies, data security experts and other platforms to root out coordinated inauthentic behavior on their platforms, in such a way that it does not infringe upon freedom of speech.

During last year’s mid-term elections in the US, following a tip-off from the FBI, Facebook detected coordinated inauthentic behavior from outside the US. The removal of accounts relating to the Hong Kong protests was a result of cooperation with Twitter. This demonstrates the importance of collaborating with all the relevant stakeholders to ensure victory in the online information war.

A number of studies and reports have uncovered evidence proving that Taiwan has already been the victim of fake information attacks. Many observers worry that Taiwan’s feeble firewall has given bad actors free rein to influence and interfere in the nation’s domestic affairs.

While there are perhaps grounds for concern, since the version of coordinated inauthentic behavior encountered in Taiwan has not yet been publicly revealed by the authorities, this only helps to further feed the narrative that the nation’s defenses are inadequate.

The government’s national security and data security apparatus must attack this problem with all the means at their disposal, since inauthentic online behavior and fake news constitute a national security threat that has the potential to derail Taiwan’s democracy. Social media platforms also have a duty to allocate a greater portion of personnel and resources to tackling this problem.

The public must be able to trust that the nation’s firewall is robust enough to protect against false information. Beijing’s online manipulation of the Hong Kong protest movement should serve as a timely warning to Taiwan.

Hu Yuan-hui is a professor in National Chung Cheng University’s Department of Communication.

Translated by Edward Jones

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