Government employees could face punishment if they use TikTok and other Chinese streaming services that have the potential to compromise the nation’s cybersecurity systems, Executive Yuan officials said yesterday.
Although the Ministry of Digital Affairs last week announced that government workers may not download TikTok (or Douyin in Chinese), Xiaohongshu (小紅書) or other Chinese applications that could compromise cybersecurity, so far, only the Executive Yuan and its agencies have implemented the rule, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Loh Meei-ling (羅美玲) said at a meeting of the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee.
Government employees in the Legislative Yuan, the Judicial Yuan, the Control Yuan and the Examination Yuan can still access TikTok, she said, asking if the country had two different standards.
Nor is there a list of software that government employees are prohibited to download to smartphones entrusted to them for government affairs, she said, adding that their smartphones are only subject to inspection twice a year.
Executive Yuan Secretary-General Li Meng-yen (李孟諺) said the Cabinet would coordinate with the four other government branches to uniformly ban the use of TikTok and other cybersecurity-compromising streaming platforms.
Minister Without Portfolio and Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) said that government employees would be punished in accordance with the regulations if they contravene the TikTok ban.
“The punishment might not be enough to deter government workers from using TikTok, so we might need more effective solutions, such as preventing access to such software in public areas. These would be the types of issues that an ad-hoc task force of the Executive Yuan will address,” Lo said.
However, more public discussion is needed to determine whether Taiwan should draft laws to completely ban the use of TikTok across the nation, as India and other countries have done, Lo said.
Li said that the government has the responsibility to ensure that government agencies are free from the influence of Chinese apps.
“However, if the TikTok ban were to be extended from government employees to civilians, freedom of speech — which the government is obligated to protect — would be an issue,” he said.
Separately, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said the government would reinforce the national cybersecurity infrastructure and enhance citizens’ ability to identify misinformation and disinformation to fight cognitive warfare launched by foreign forces.
Tsai made the remarks at the Presidential Office during a meeting with a group of students from the Kaohsiung Municipal Senior High School who won the top prize at this year’s Cybersecurity Golden Shield Awards.
“My administration has always believed that cybersecurity issues are national security issues. With the rapid development of new technologies, our cybersecurity system is facing increasing threats and frequent attacks. Foreign forces are launching cognitive warfare by disseminating misinformation and disinformation to confuse the public,” Tsai said.
“All these tactics could potentially do great harm to our democratic system. As such, we are enhancing citizens’ ability to identify misinformation and disinformation and reinforce the national cybersecurity infrastructure,” she added.
The Cyber Security Management Act (資通安全管理法), which the legislature passed in 2018, requires government agencies and key infrastructure operators to establish cybersecurity protection mechanisms.
“The Administration for Cybersecurity at the Ministry of Digital Affairs, which was founded in August, handles national cybersecurity issues, conducts cybersecurity protection drills and trains cybersecurity workers,” Tsai said. “We will also work with our democratic allies to build a more resilient and safer supply chain, and enforce measures to protect intellectual property rights.”
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