People must remain vigilant over information warfare launched by China, including cyberattacks and the malicious spread of misinformation, an Institute for National Defense and Security Research official said on Sunday.
Information warfare launched by Beijing against Taiwan aims to undermine the public’s confidence in the nation’s democratic system, Division of Cyber Warfare and Information Security head Tseng Yi-shuo (曾怡碩) said.
China deploys warplanes and vessels to circle Taiwan in attempts to intimidate Taiwanese, Tseng said.
According to the Executive Yuan’s Department of Cyber Security, Taiwan is targeted by an average of 30 million cyberattacks per month, with more than half of them suspected to have originated in China.
The spread of disinformation is a form of information warfare that has troubled Taiwan in the past few years, said Puma Shen (沈伯洋), an assistant professor at National Taipei University’s Graduate School of Criminology.
While false news reports and content farms created by China’s cyberarmy tend to have little effect due to their low quality, “moles” in Taiwan who cooperate with China to spread misinformation — such as public affairs agencies, politicians and local influencers — pose a much bigger threat, Shen said.
Words and sentences written by “local collaborators” are consistent with styles Taiwanese are used to, making it harder to judge the source of the information, as well as its validity, he said, adding that this model of collaboration is most commonly seen in the run-up to elections.
Cognitive warfare is another form of information warfare, but China’s cognitive warfare has had little effect, considering election outcomes in Taiwan, Tseng said, adding that compared with US society, rifts among Taiwanese have not widened significantly.
Cognitive warfare aims to influence the perceptions of a target audience and create a mainstream narrative that favors a type of candidate, he said.
Although Taiwanese are on the alert for Chinese threats because of the situation in Hong Kong, it is still important to keep close tabs on China’s attempts at information warfare, he said.
Efforts by online platforms to mark and report false news are crucial, Shen said, adding that the government promulgate more legislation that would allow it to locate infiltrators and cut off their funding.
Additional reporting by Lee Hsin-fang
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