Sat, Mar 16, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Cabinet aims to curb misinformation

COMMUNICATION ISSUES:One source said that most government agencies have trouble explaining their policies to the public and often need additional clarification

By Lee Hsin-fang  /  Staff reporter

Skewered squid is grilled at a stand at the Kaohsiung Squid Culture Festival in Kaohsiung’s Cijin District on May 27, 2015.

Photo: Huang Chien-hua, Taipei Times

The Executive Yuan has listed combating misinformation as its priority and would require government agencies to step up supporting measures, people familiar with the matter said yesterday.

The directive from the Executive Yuan came after a national security conference on Monday, at which President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), noting that a significant amount of misinformation propagated by China has undermined Taiwan’s democracy and social order, asked the Cabinet to propose countermeasures against Beijing’s plans to implement the “one country, two systems” model in Taiwan.

Since then, Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) has met with Minister of the Interior Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇), Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) and other ministry heads to discuss possible countermeasures against a growing amount of misinformation related to food security, agriculture and political issues, the sources said.

Most government agencies have problems effectively explaining policies to the public, an official said on condition of anonymity.

While most agencies have become more responsive to public opinion, their news releases and statements are often difficult to understand or require subsequent efforts to solve problems, the official said.

The official cited as an example a plan by the central bank to offer jobs to retired athletes, for which it asked the Ministry of Education’s Sports Administration to recommend suitable candidates.

News of the plan sparked a public outcry, with many saying that the central bank would require world-class athletes to perform manual labor.

The central bank later said that it would further discuss the plan with the Sports Administration.

Another example is criticism the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received for its draft regulations on concentrations of the carcinogen benzopyrene in grilled foods, the official said.

Some netizens have protested the possibility that braised squid, a popular snack at night markets, could be banned.

The draft regulations aim to regulate mass-produced, packaged foods, the FDA said later, adding that braised squid would not be banned.

Despite their supplementary explanations, the central bank and the FDA failed to stop unfounded rumors from spreading, the official said.

Instead of holding agencies to blame, the Cabinet hopes they will improve their ability to clarify such speculation, the official added.

In related news, Chinese conglomerate Tencent Holdings (騰訊) reportedly plans to establish a branch office in Taiwan, which some lawmakers have said could serve Beijing’s “united front” strategy.

The National Communications Commission yesterday invited pertinent agencies to a meeting on response measures, but did not reach any conclusion.

As the matter involves national security, further discussion with other relevant authorities and the Mainland Affairs Council would be required, the commission said.

Additional reporting by Yang Mien-chieh

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