The nation should amplify its global voice by sharing with other nations its predictions of China’s next steps on spreading disinformation about COVID-19, thereby leveraging its strategic position at a time when international politics is dominated by rivalries between large countries, Taipei University assistant professor of criminology Puma Shen (沈伯洋) said.
Chinese disinformation can be divided into four categories: capitalist, original, outsourced and regional, all of which target the general audience, Shen told a forum held by the New Taiwan Peace Foundation.
Outsourced and regional disinformation are more crude and easier to identify, such as an ever-increasing number of videos containing misinformation that are posted on YouTube, as well as those shared on Chinese instant messaging apps, he said.
Capitalist disinformation is disseminated by wealthier entities, such as the Chinese government, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and their affiliated units, while original disinformation is created by hired overseas online influencers, Shen said.
He cited as an example Taiwanese YouTubers, some of whom have received training from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), saying that this type of disinformation is usually more difficult to identify.
Taiwan was the first nation to inform the WHO of a pneumonia-like disease in China, Shen said.
As early as mid-December last year, Google Trends had shown that the number of searches originating in China’s Hubei Province using the keyword “SARS” spiked to about 50 times the normal frequency, he said.
Shen said that through his methods he could “confirm” that Beijing’s state propaganda and CCP wings have united in an all-out effort to whitewash China’s reputation by creating the false impression that COVID-19 originated in the US.
However, with Taiwan having been able to keep COVID-19 under control and the public largely maintaining its composure, China has not yet launched an all-out disinformation campaign against the nation, he said, adding that this scenario would likely occur if the situation worsened.
Due to the popularity of Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), original disinformation that was aimed at vilifying the government has mostly backfired, Shen said.
At a time when the entire world is anxious to find out what China’s next move in spreading disinformation would likely be, Taiwan — which has detailed knowledge of Chinese disinformation thanks in part to the lack of a language barrier — could help the world spot false information exported by China, in addition to sharing its methods to contain COVID-19, he said.
Taiwan could create a dedicated agency to alert the world about what COVID-19 disinformation China could come up with next, thereby leveraging its international status and reminding the world that it is an indispensable member of the international community, he added.
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