Mon, Apr 15, 2019 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Professor on why news needs to be regulated

Liberty Times (LT): How severely does “fake news” affect Taiwan and other nations?

Wang Tai-li (王泰俐): Fake news has affected the election outcomes of many democratic countries, for example, the nine-in-one local elections in Taiwan, the midterm elections in the US and the general elections in Sweden and Brazil.

I have been conducting research on fake news regarding Taiwan’s elections since last year and have proven that centrists and those considered “light green,” or moderate pan-green supporters, were affected by fake news.

These two groups are less able to judge what news is false and could easily vote for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

Other groups, such as young people, low-salaried workers, people who use Facebook or other social media a lot and females are prone to believing in fake news generated during election season.

This could be due to various reasons, including a distrust of politics, being uncertain of the future, hiding behind the “filter bubble” effect or being politically apathetic.

LT: What do you think are the causes of fake news and disinformation? How do you expect fake news and disinformation to develop?

Wang: A paper in Science was devoted to fake news. In the article, the researcher concluded after analyzing thousands of pieces of information that novel news arouses the greatest amount of curiosity in an audience, which leads to higher click rates on the Internet.

However, this characteristic has been abused by individuals or states that are aware of it. By using the openness of the Internet, they create fake political news en masse in an effort to influence public rhetoric, thereby achieving certain political goals.

With regards to Taiwan, some media agencies are citing unverified or greatly biased information directly from the Internet in their reports. This is seen as one of the greatest sources of false news.

However, the matter of fake news has become a highly politicized issue and is said to be an excuse used by the ruling party to oppress freedom of speech, or to silence all criticism.

This is due in part to inflammatory comments by politicians and biased reporting from agencies.

LT: How should governments deal with fake news while maintaining a respect for free speech and the rule of law?

Wang: Every nation that deals with fake news has to ask whether using an outside authority or legislation would infringe on freedom of speech. Yet, where national security and cybersecurity are concerned, the public broadly supports the government taking legal action against fake news.

There are many Americans who are opposed to [US President Donald] Trump, but they do not oppose his policy to counter foreign influence campaigns that aim to spread propaganda and disinformation.

I support our nation legislating against fake news that concerns national security or cybersecurity. Unlike other democratic nations, part of the Taiwanese media has been infiltrated by “red capital.” This issue was covered in two reports by the Japan’s NHK and once in a documentary on al-Jazeera, as well as in the New York Times, the Washington Post the UK’s Financial Times and BBC. The internationally renowned academic He Qinglian (何清漣) wrote a book, Red Infiltration: the Truth About the Global Expansion of Chinese Media. These provide sufficient proof [of China’s media infiltration].

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