YouTube has emerged as a new battleground for opposing political camps to spread disinformation in the run-up to Jan. 11’s presidential election, said Wang Tai-li (王泰俐), a professor in National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of Journalism.
In a letter to the editor published yesterday in the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper), Wang wrote that while Facebook and Twitter have closed accounts created to spread false information, YouTube has become the new battleground to disseminate false opinions and information.
The host of YouTube channel “Under the Foot of Yushan” (玉山腳下) was determined to be a China National Radio journalist by the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau, Wang wrote.
The host, “Sida,” spoke Mandarin with a Taiwanese accent, while his gestures and humorous take on politics made him appear to be much like other Taiwanese Internet celebrities, she said.
Even though the identity of the channel’s host was exposed on Oct. 22 and no new content has been uploaded to the channel since then, YouTube has not removed the false content, which means people can still access it, Wang said.
The channel is not an isolated case, as her research shows that more than 10 YouTube channels were created from August to last month that focused on attacking the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), she said.
Some of the channels, which have more than 10,000 subscribers, are actually content farms run by Chinese nationals and have simplified Chinese subtitles available, she said.
To make videos, the creators simply use photographs collected from news media and turn them into groundless accusations targeting specific politicians, Wang said.
People are more susceptible to information that is presented in audiovisual form, she said, adding that the popularity of such channels surged because they focus on major reports in the news.
“They combine false information and plausible images, repackage them and turning them into video clips. They take advantage of the myth that ‘to see is to believe’ by massively disseminating false information in the run-up to the election,” Wang said.
Even though international news media have extensively covered Beijing’s attempts to influence politics in Taiwan through false reports, most Taiwanese are unaware that it is happening here, she said.
Survey results show that many Taiwanese do not believe or are indifferent to the infiltration of false reports from sources outside the country, Wang said, adding that they think “fake news” is a tactic employed by politicians to hurt their opponents.
People’s indifference to the gravity of the issue has made YouTube a hotbed for rumors and a new battleground for false information about Jan. 11’s election, she said.
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