Beijing has been manipulating public opinion to advance its expansionist ambitions in Taiwan, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said yesterday, calling on the public not to become unwitting tools of Chinese propaganda as an apparent Beijing-directed social media influence campaign causes concern.
The Mainland Affairs Council in a statement on Friday said it had asked the government to investigate whether China’s reported effort to recruit pro-China content creators in Taiwan contravenes Taiwanese laws.
The council’s statement was perceived to be a response to reports that job advertisements have appeared on Facebook that seek Taiwanese applicants willing to promote a Taiwanese detente or unification with China.
“The Internet is as much a weapon of the Chinese government as the Chinese warships and fighter jets circling the nation,” Su said yesterday.
“China is paying people from all classes of Taiwanese society and utilizing the Internet to manufacture disinformation and fake news, which create divisions and demoralization that aid Beijing’s ambitions of annexing Taiwan,” he said.
While government agencies have been ordered to take precautions against China’s influence operations, members of the public are called upon to exercise their best judgement when consuming information, he said.
The Legislative Yuan’s Organic Laws and Statutes Bureau has raised concerns that a bill being drafted by the Executive Yuan to regulate false reporting could infringe on freedom of the press, he said.
“We hope the media can regulate itself, but we have witnessed disconcerting developments, which the public has also condemned,” he said. “Both self-regulation and laws are needed for effective regulation.”
The Executive Yuan is mulling another amendment to the Criminal Code that would punish people who help spread false information, Cabinet spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka said yesterday.
“We cannot let outside forces take advantage of Taiwan’s freedom while harming our democracy,” Kolas said, adding that the government would continue to combat false reporting aimed at causing social unrest.
Separately yesterday, Taoyuan City Councilor Wang Hao-yu (王浩宇) of the Green Party said that a business entity had offered him a seven-digit sum to sell a Facebook community page for Jhongli District (中壢) that he administers.
The entity is apparently based in China and its offer is probably connected to the general elections next year, he said, adding that the business seemed to have calculated the asking price based on the number of posts and comments generated.
“I am not a sellout and I will not allow our priceless freedom of speech to fall into the hands of the information warfare operatives across the [Taiwan] Strait,” he said.
The National Security Bureau has been asked to launch an investigation into the identity of the would be buyer, he said.
Additional reporting by CNA
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