Tue, Nov 06, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Experts urge action on PRC meddling

‘INTERNET ARMY’:After interfering in Hong Kong, Beijing has extended its hands into Taiwanese elections by seeking control over local online platforms, academics said

By Chen Yu-fu and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Academics urged the government to take action against China’s use of misinformation to interfere in the Nov. 24 nine-in-one local elections and Taiwanese politics, with one suggesting that “anti-united front” legislation be drafted.

There is no doubt that China has an “Internet army,” Taiwan Think Tank consultant Tung Li-wen (董立文) said.

US President Donald Trump’s administration has accused the Chinese government of using its Internet army to interfere in the US midterm elections, and now, Beijing is directing its Internet army to meddle in local elections and to attack the government and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) with a barrage of misinformation, he said.

The US and Germany have introduced legislation to stop the spread of misinformation, while, France, India, and the UK have formed parliamentary committees to respond to such tactics, he said.

Taiwan can no longer rely on the self-discipline of the media and freedom of speech is no excuse to let misinformation go unchecked, he said.

China has almost completely taken control of Hong Kong’s government and media, and is attacking young supporters of the Umbrella movement, National Cheng Kung University political science professor Leung Man-to (梁文韜) said.

It has extended its meddling into the Taiwanese elections and manipulated Professional Technology Temple (PTT) — the nation’s largest online academic bulletin board system — and other popular local online forums, he said.

The 2014 Sunflower movement was an example of the younger generation using the Internet to resist the party-state system, he added.

The Chinese government has learned how opposition forces in Taiwan operate and invested in large numbers of “Internet forces” on PTT to control the platform, and influence younger and independent voters, he said.

To attack the DPP government, China is, on the one hand, releasing false information to undermine the government’s authority, while, on the other hand, increasing its own popularity online, he said.

It is easy for young people who are not usually interested in politics to fall into the trap and follow the trend, he said.

When people encounter false information and do not know whether it is true or false, they usually choose to believe it, he said, adding that even if the government later clarifies the facts, the public might not take notice.

Another way that the Chinese government achieves its goals is by using “fake opinions” to boost the popularity of specific Taiwanese candidates, garnering the support of voters who do not usually engage in politics, he said.

Although people determine for themselves whether any information is true or false, the government must still take a stance, he said.

It should draw up an “anti-united front act” to resist the spread of misinformation from China, he said, adding that the DPP, which has a majority in the Legislative Yuan, cannot simply denounce Chinese suppression and ask for sympathy.

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