Sat, Nov 03, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Private citizens not monitored: Tsai

By Lee Hsin-fang and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday said free expression on Facebook is not subject to interference or surveillance, adding that democracy in Taiwan cannot and will not regress to a state of authoritarianism.

Tsai made the comments on Facebook after the Chinese-language United Daily News yesterday reported that the National Security Bureau (NSB) has monitored people on social media, citing remarks made by bureau Director-General Peng Sheng-chu (彭勝竹) at a legislative session the previous day.

At a news conference yesterday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) also accused the NSB of prying into people’s activities on social media, saying the move represented a backward step for democracy.

The bureau’s spying on people’s activities on Facebook is ridiculous and has sparked an outcry among users, Chiang said, comparing the Democratic Progressive Party to “Big Brother” and accusing it of returning to the authoritarian era.

In response, the NSB issued a statement saying that its social media surveillance targets “foreign elements” that are spreading disinformation in Taiwan, not private citizens or groups.

In her Facebook post, Tsai said that the bureau’s policies are a necessary response to attempts by foreign elements using false information to interfere with the nation’s domestic affairs and undermine its democracy.

Democratic states around the world are taking similar precautions, she added.

A Presidential Office official, on condition of anonymity, said that the president’s comments were primarily directed at certain media outlets’ sensational and deliberately misleading stories about Peng’s remarks at the legislature.

The story distorts the bureau’s efforts to counter disinformation from foreign elements and portrays it as governmental surveillance of private citizens’ Facebook use, the unnamed official said.

Tsai’s position is that Taiwan is a free country that imposes no limits on speech and welcomes the expression of all opinions, including those of Chinese citizens who have bypassed China’s state firewall to post on Taiwanese Facebook pages, the official said.

Additional reporting by Sean Lin

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