The WHO on Thursday said that it had faced an “onslaught” of cyberattacks by activists using key words like “Taiwan,” after the government complained that posts in support of Taiwan were being censored on Facebook.
Taipei has been angered by its inability to fully access the WHO, of which it is not a member due to Beijing’s objections, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This week it again failed to get into the World Health Assembly, the WHO’s decisionmaking body.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the blocking of posts in support of Taiwan on the WHO’s Facebook page ran contrary to the neutrality the global health body should be upholding.
“The ministry expresses its strong regret and dissatisfaction,” it said in a statement.
The WHO defended the move.
“During the World Health Assembly, WHO faces an onslaught of cyberattacks by online activists on a number of controversial issues, using keywords such as ‘Taiwan’ and ‘China,’” it said.
That hindered its ability to moderate conversations for people who visited its page to discuss health issues, it said.
When that happened, “our social media team applies content filters,” the WHO added.
“This is a practical measure that does not reflect a value judgement or any policy of the World Health Organization,” it said.
“The aim is to enable our users to avoid being spammed through cyberattacks, including from bots, and to find a balanced way to keep information and conversation flowing,” it said.
It added that it had now restored the ability of users to post the words “Taiwan” and “China.”
The censorship of Taiwan inspired some creative trolling on Thursday, with special characters and foreign scripts called up to bypass the block.
Social media users in Taiwan used extra characters to get around the block, and to proclaim that “Taiw@n can help!” the global health body combat the virus.
Additional reporting by AFP
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