Lawmakers on the legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday asked the National Communications Commission (NCC) to punish broadcast media that air disinformation ahead of the Nov. 24 elections.
Issues related to the spread of fake news again drew the committee’s attention after the Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) was accused of cheating during a debate on Saturday for Kaohsiung’s mayoral candidates by wearing an earphone.
Although Chen denied the allegation and the Kaohsiung City Election Committee, after examining video footage of the debate, issued a news release dismissing the idea, the story spread on the Internet and continues to be aired in broadcasts.
DPP Legislator Cheng Pao-ching (鄭寶清) said media outlets often do not thoroughly verify information before publishing it, because they want to publish the information as soon as possible to draw traffic to their Web sites and boost page views.
The commission is not powerless to counter the spread of fake news, since Article 27 of the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法) requires broadcast media to verify information before airing it, he said.
Outlets that contravene the act can be fined between NT$200,000 and NT$2 million (US$6,475 and US$64,570) and the commission could also order the cancelation of a program’s broadcast and its commercials, he said.
DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said: “The government has lagged behind those of other nations in updating legislation against the publication and dissemination of fake news, such as the EU’s Code of Practice on Disinformation.”
The commission should work with other nations to jointly counter disinformation by proposing initiatives in international entities such as APEC, Hsiao said.
DPP Legislator Lin Jing-yi (林靜儀), who has been promoting marriage equality, said that organizations against same-sex marriage have been spreading false information on gender equality and sex education amid the debate on referendums being held alongside the Nov. 24 elections.
Lin asked NCC Chairwoman Nicole Chan (詹婷怡) if the commission could handle the matter through the Television Programs Classification Handling Regulations (電視節目分級處理辦法) or the Radio and Television Act (廣播電視法).
Chan said the commission’s job was to ensure that all broadcast media adhere to Article 27 of the Satellite Broadcasting Act.
Any controversial content would be referred to an independent content review committee of experts, she said, adding that such a committee would check the authenticity of the challenged content, determine if the content damaged public interests and if the broadcaster verified the information before publishing it.
As for opinions expressed by candidates during televised debates, the NCC would have to consult with the Central Election Commission to see if there was a code of conduct regulating candidates’ remarks and behavior, Chan said.
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