China is refining its information warfare tactics in an attempt to create animosity toward the government and nations friendly to Taiwan, an information security official said on Saturday, following the release of a fabricated Presidential Office announcement online.
A fake announcement that appeared to be from the Presidential Office was circulated on Facebook on Thursday, claiming that the government planned to accept contaminated wastewater from Japan’s crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.
The post was reported to authorities, who on Friday confirmed that it was fake and had originated in China.
The announcement showed improvements in China’s ability to fabricate misinformation compared with attempts made last year, but there were still telltale signs that it was fake, Division of Cyber Warfare and Information Security head Tseng Yi-shuo (曾怡碩) said.
The announcement was an attempt by China to sow mistrust in the government, and to create a divide in the Taiwan-Japan relationship, he said.
Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau officers in December last year investigated two Taiwanese who were spreading a fake Presidential Office announcement alleging Taiwanese and US involvement in protests in Thailand.
The investigators found that the men had spent time in China where Chinese officials trained them to fabricate and disseminate misinformation, he said.
“Comparing that announcement made in December with this recent one, there are obvious improvements — there are much fewer errors,” he said.
The announcement alleged that the wastewater would be brought into Taiwan through Kaohsiung’s Zuoying (左營) naval base, which was likely meant to harm the Democratic Progressive Party administration’s support base in southern Taiwan, he said.
“Beijing increasingly understands the situation in Taiwan, and it has a grasp on the sensitive issues in different communities,” he said.
The situation could be compared to Russia’s interference in social issues in the US last year, with the purpose of affecting the outcome of the US’ presidential election, he said.
Meanwhile, political science researcher Ho Cheng-hui (何澄輝) said that while altering images and documents requires only minimal skill, what was important is what the timing and content of the document showed about who was really behind it.
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