Dear Premier William Lai (賴清德),
The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), led by global Internet and technology firms involved in international investment and trade, is an industry association that seeks to promote understanding and resolution of Internet and information and communications technology (ICT) policy issues in the Asia-Pacific region. Our members are Amazon, AirBnb, Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, LinkedIn, Expedia, Rakuten, Line and Yahoo (Oath).
The AIC is concerned about recent public statements made by the Executive Yuan in regard to possible amendments to Taiwan’s draft digital communications act.
Whereas the original bill, submitted to the Legislative Yuan on Nov. 26 last year, embraced the standards set under the “Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability,” public statements made by the Executive Yuan on Tuesday last week signal a material and fundamental departure from the spirit of the original bill.
Current developments regarding the bill are especially troubling given the absence of any substantive government-industry dialogue about them. They raise significant concerns over the freedom of expression for the people of Taiwan.
They will also hinder future investments and development of new services by the industry, and impact the future growth of Taiwan’s digital economy.
1. Withdrawal of the bill from the Legislative Yuan and its return to the Executive Yuan for further deliberations.
Open and collaborative communication between the government and industry is vital to the healthy development of the public Internet, whether it be the sharing of resources, understanding or experience.
The Executive Yuan had earlier stated that the bill was under review by the Legislative Yuan and that it was unable to propose amendments while the bill awaits to pass its second reading by lawmakers.
However, the Executive Yuan’s current role in collecting information for the Legislative Yuan in preparation for a fundamental shift on the bill is in direct contradiction to the outward actions expressed by the Executive Yuan in approving and submitting the original draft digital communications act to the Legislative Yuan on Nov. 16 last year, the original bill that adopts the standards set under the Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability.
Thus, the AIC would like to respectfully ask the Executive Yuan, as the original submitter of the bill, to request the Legislative Yuan to withdraw the bill and return it to the Executive Yuan for further deliberations, as well as for the Executive Yuan to engage in consistent, open and collaborative communications with all stakeholders involved.
2. Avoid an arbitrary infringement of the freedom of speech by providing sufficient and meaningful opportunities for multifaceted communications to take place first.
The AIC is keen on preserving the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet. It supports public policies that encourage individual rights, freedom of communication and access to legitimate Internet content, services and applications.
We believe that prescriptive legislation designed to control the exchange of information will not adequately address the issue of misinformation, as discerning whether information is “true” or “false” is highly subjective and risks compromising both public access to information and the legitimate exchange of ideas.
The AIC is aware that other countries, such as Germany, have drawn up laws to combat hate speech.
However, without first having a substantial period of stakeholder dialogue, modeling Taiwanese laws imprecisely on foreign ones risks far-reaching consequences for the freedom of speech and human rights of the people of Taiwan.
Thus, the AIC requests a broad interpretation of any existing rules, guidelines and general good faith to provide industry with the most allowable, sufficient and meaningful opportunities for critical commentary, collaborative efforts and innovative ideas to be shared among government, non-governmental organizations, industry and other relevant stakeholders in Taiwan before seeking legislative measures that might unintentionally limit freedom of speech and basic human rights.
Taiwan has consistently been ranked as one of the freest countries in Asia by organizations such as Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House. It is considered freer than neighboring Asian countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. This accomplishment is a result of Taiwan upholding democratic values that support freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
While online misinformation is a highly complex and critical issue, members of the AIC have experience working with governments and are ready to work with the Taiwanese government on its desire to make the Internet safer and better. We look forward to further dialogue to ensure a fair and balanced outcome of any collaborative efforts in this area.
Asia Internet Coalition
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