Prosecutors should investigate whether an organization funded a Web manager who has been accused of running an “Internet army” to influence public opinion and allegedly posting an article that has been linked to the death of a diplomat, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said yesterday.
Yang Hui-ju (楊蕙如), who was a Web manager for then-Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh’s (謝長廷) campaign in 2008, allegedly has the same Internet protocol address as a man surnamed Tsai (蔡).
Typhoon Jebi hit Japan on Sept. 4 last year, forcing Kansai International Airport to shut down, stranding thousands of passengers.
A fabricated report spread online about the Chinese embassy in Japan having sent buses to evacuate Chinese from the airport, and some Internet users criticized the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Japan, which Hsieh heads as representative to Japan, for not helping Taiwanese.
Tsai allegedly posted an article on Sept. 6, defending Hsieh, and blaming the Osaka branch of the office, calling its officials “the remaining evil elements of the party-state.”
Then-branch director-general Su Chii-cherng (蘇啟誠) committed suicide at his residence eight days later. Media reports said his death might be linked with work pressure caused by public criticism.
The Taipei District Prosecutors’ office on Monday said that Yang had paid NT$10,000 (US$328) per month to Tsai and her other “Internet army” members to post articles and comments on news stories on popular social media platforms to influence public opinion.
Yang and Tsai have also been accused of insulting a public official.
Ko said that he does not believe that Yang paid her “Internet army” members herself and “there must be someone paying from above, so they should find out who is in the ‘upstream’ of the operation.”
When asked about speculation that the DPP had funded Yang, Ko said that every party has its own “Internet army,” adding that popular fan pages on social media platforms can be purchased.
“Everyone thinks earning money is important, but at the end it all comes down to citizens’ moral standards,” he said. “If vote-buying is still effective in Taiwan, then who can we blame for having bad presidents? It is just the reflection of the citizens’ level. Taiwan really needs a cultural reform movement.”
Ko on Monday night said on Facebook that he was not surprised that Taiwan’s Internet has been infiltrated by forces that want to affect elections.
“However, a Taiwanese party that claims to be ‘progressive’ has people using the same methods as mainland China, spending money on raising an Internet army to manipulate public opinion online and even possibly causing the death of a diplomat. It has been confirmed by prosecutors today,” he wrote. “I think anyone should condemn such operations.”
Yang was dubbed the “credit card goddess” after gaining fame in 2006 by generating more than NT$1 million profit in three months by using her credit cards.
Additional reporting by CNA
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