The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) is considering amendments to prevent Beijing from spreading disinformation through TikTok, a source said yesterday, as prosecutors and government officials investigate alleged illegal activity by the app’s Chinese owner.
The government is mulling amending the Anti-infiltration Act (反滲透法) or the National Security Act (國家安全法) to prevent false information from being spread through TikTok and its Chinese version, Douyin (抖音), as it might endanger national security, a source said yesterday.
The Executive Yuan has also formed a task force to discuss how to mitigate damage caused by Douyin, the source said.
The Cabinet believes that blocking the platform in Taiwan would not prevent people from using it, but could reduce risk, they said.
As Beijing continues to spread propaganda as part of its “united front” efforts, Taiwan’s lack of a competent authority overseeing the Internet leaves a “huge loophole” in terms of national security, a source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Ministry of Digital Affairs should be that competent authority, they said, adding that laws were needed to regulate online content, as simply blocking Douyin cannot effectively prevent Beijing from infiltrating Taiwan.
The MAC in a statement on Sunday said it launched an investigation into TikTok on Dec. 9, after Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) said at an interministerial meeting that the application posed a cybersecurity threat.
After the meeting, the council submitted to prosecutors information on the app’s activities, which could contravene the Criminal Code.
The disclosure of the probe came after the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the sister paper of the Taipei Times) on Sunday reported that Beijing-headquartered ByteDance Ltd (字節跳動), the developer of TikTok, reportedly registered a company called Tiktoktaiwan Co Ltd (昇洋國際生技) with the Ministry of Economic Affairs in March 2018.
The firm on Nov. 2 changed its registered name to ByteDance Taiwan (字節跳動台灣), economic affairs ministry records showed.
ByteDance yesterday denied setting up a subsidiary in Taiwan.
The Ministry of Digital Affairs has already listed Douyin as a product that “endangers national information security,” as it is said to transmit user data back to Beijing.
Government employees are prohibited from using the application, which is also banned on information and communication devices in the public sector.
An anonymous national security official said that China is nurturing Taiwanese influencers in a bid to influence young Taiwanese through the platform.
To counter the influence of TikTok and Douyin, European countries and the US have focused on the platform’s information security problems, and Japan has focused on issues related to the spread of false information, while India blocked its use because it says the app puts national security and children at risk, the official said.
Apart from India, no other country bans the public from using the platform.
Additional reporting by Cheng Chi-fang and CNA
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