Mon, Nov 11, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Academic warns of video disinformation

By Wu Shu-wei  /  Staff reporter

Philip Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute, delivers his keynote speech at a forum on fake news in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times

Disinformation campaigns have become more difficult to track and identify as they evolve into video form, Oxford University Internet Institute director Philip Howard said yesterday.

As more young people switch from Facebook and Twitter to platforms that favor videos — such as YouTube, Instagram and TikTok — more disinformation can be found on the latter, Howard said in his keynote speech at the “Fake News Directing Information Warfare? Focus on Social Media From Global Vision” forum in Taipei, which was organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology and National Taiwan University.

While such video platforms tend to have less political content, disinformation campaigns usually only target them when elections are approachi ng with the aim of influencing voters, he said.

Unlike disinformation in articles, which can be identified with software, disinformation in videos is more difficult to identify and requires people who understand the language, he said.

“In the last few months, China has emerged as a superpower in disinformation,” Howard said.

In addition to meddling in Taiwan’s elections, China has been found to have spread false news reports about the anti-extradition bill protests in Hong Kong in various languages on social media, he said.

Since 2017, the number of countries that use computational propaganda to manipulate public opinion has more than doubled to about 70, while political parties in at least 45 democracies have been found to have manipulated information to garner support, he said.

Some countries hire hackers or students to spread disinformation, and even hold “forums” on organizing disinformation campaigns, he said.

Chinese cybertroops collect personal information and preferences on WeChat and TikTok to help select targets for their disinformation campaigns, said Puma Shen (沈伯洋), an assistant professor at National Taipei University’s Graduate School of Criminology.

Titus Chen (陳至潔), an associate professor at National Sun Yat-sen University’s Institute of Political Science, said that Chinese disinformation campaigns in Taiwan are usually conducted through “patriotic” commercial media that follow the tone set by Beijing.

However, because the Chinese government does not properly understand Taiwanese, its disinformation campaigns usually backfire, Chen said.

Nonetheless, the nation needs to be on guard against its own people who collaborate with Chinese propagandists, because collaborators would know their compatriots well, he said.

Additional reporting by CNA

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