Authorities have accused Chinese Internet trolls of sowing panic over COVID-19, with much of the disinformation falsely implying that the nation has an out-of-control epidemic.
Police said that they are investigating a surge in stories spreading online and through social media claiming that President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration is trying to cover up an outbreak.
“We suspect that Chinese Internet trolls are making up and spreading the false messages based on the content and the phrases,” the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau said in a statement late on Wednesday.
“The intent is to cause misunderstanding among the public and to sow panic to seriously jeopardize our social stability,” it added.
Tsai took to Facebook to warn people against believing rumors.
While she did not mention China by name, she hinted at linguistic clues suggesting that much of the misinformation was being written outside of Taiwan.
“Some of the rumors even contain phrases not used in Taiwan,” she wrote.
The nation moved swiftly against the virus, quickly restricting and then banning arrivals from China, Hong Kong and Macau.
The outbreak in China has only added to tensions between Taiwan and China.
The nation has long been a target for Chinese nationalist Internet trolls seeking to undermine public faith in Tsai’s administration.
Analysts have said that trolls have gotten better over the past few years at deploying traditional Chinese and Taiwanese phrasing, but much of the misinformation on the virus appears to be more rudimentary.
One example given by the bureau was a false social media message claiming to be written by the child of a Democratic Progressive Party legislator, saying that Taipei “dares not disclose more than 500 infections and 200 deaths.”
Another false message claimed that the administration of “Governor Tsai” — a term used by people in China to refer to the president — is covering up the cremation of bodies, the bureau said.
The Taiwan FactCheck Center — an independent organization that debunks misinformation — said that there has been a surge in false posts deploying simplified Chinese characters or phrases commonly used in China.
“New variants of such disinformation keep coming out to spread falsehoods in an attempt to create panic,” the center wrote. “We urge readers not to forward these messages, but to verify and discredit them.”
Police have detained a Taoyuan couple suspected of over the past two months colluding with human trafficking rings and employment scammers in Southeast Asia to send nearly 100 Taiwanese jobseekers to Cambodia. At a media briefing in Taipei yesterday, the Criminal Investigation Bureau presented items seized from the couple, including alleged victims’ passports, forged COVID-19 vaccination records, mobile phones, bank documents, checks and cash. The man, surnamed Tsai (蔡), and his girlfriend, surnamed Tsan (詹), were taken into custody last month, after police at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport stopped four jobseekers from boarding a flight to Phnom Penh, said Dustin Lee (李泱輯),
BILINGUAL PLAN: The 17 educators were recruited under a program that seeks to empower Taiwanese, the envoy to the Philippines said The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines on Thursday hosted a send-off event for the first group of English-language teachers from the country who were recruited for a Ministry of Education-initiated program to advance bilingual education in Taiwan. The 14 teachers and three teaching assistants are part of the Taiwan Foreign English Teacher Program, which aims to help find English-language instructors for Taiwan’s public elementary and junior-high schools, the office said. Seventy-seven teachers and 11 teaching assistants from the Philippines have been hired to teach in Taiwan in the coming school year, office data showed. Among the first group is 57-year-old
TRICKED INTO MOVING: Local governments in China do not offer any help, and Taiwanese there must compete with Chinese in an unfamiliar setting, a researcher said Beijing’s incentives for Taiwanese businesspeople to invest in China are only intended to lure them across the Taiwan Strait, after which they receive no real support, an expert said on Sunday. Over the past few years, Beijing has been offering a number of incentives that “benefit Taiwanese in name, while benefiting China in reality,” a cross-strait affairs expert said on condition of anonymity. Strategies such as the “31 incentives” are intended to lure Taiwanese talent, capital and technology to help address China’s economic issues while also furthering its “united front” efforts, they said. Local governments in China do not offer much practical
PUBLIC POLL: More than half believe Chinese drills would make Taiwanese less willing to unify with China, while 36 percent said an invasion was highly unlikely Half of Taiwanese support independence, according to the results of a poll released yesterday by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation, which also found that President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) support rating fell by 7 percentage points. Fifty percent of respondents supported independence, 25.7 percent supported maintaining the “status quo” and 11.8 percent supported unification, while 12.1 percent had no opinion, did not know or refused to answer, the foundation said. Support for independence is the new mainstream opinion, regardless of which party is in power, foundation chairman Michael You (游盈隆) said. Insinuations that Taiwan wants to maintain the “status quo” are a fabrication that