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Why the world must pay attention to the fight against disinformation and fake news in Taiwan

As in other countries, the fake news problem in Taiwan takes advantage of complex, deep-rooted ideological, cultural and political rifts among Taiwan’s population of 24 million, and it demonstrates that fake news isn’t just a tech or media literacy problem, but also one that needs to be examined from a social psychological perspective.

This year’s election is taking place as the Chinese government, under President Xi Jinping, makes increasingly aggressive efforts to assert control over Taiwan, and as the ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong underscore the fissures in China’s “one country, two systems”

Last year, the Varieties of Democracy Institute (V-Dem) at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden researched foreign influence in domestic politics and placed Taiwan in its “worst” category, along with Latvia and Bahrain, as the countries where foreign governments most frequently use social media to spread false information for “all key political issues.”

During the previous presidential election, cyber armies consisting of supporters for some politicians, or workers for political parties and public relations companies, began engaging in online information wars, creating an opportunity for foreign influence.

Over the last two years, YouTube has also become an increasingly potent way to spread disinformation, often through short videos that take clips and photos from news outlets and re-edit them to present misleading narratives about major news events.

The legislation was opposed by KMT politicians, including former president Ma Ying-jeou, who made controversial statements comparing the bill to restoring Taiwan’s four decades of martial law, which ended in 1987.

In July 2018, the group began collaborating with Facebook, where posts flagged as containing false information bring up a screen with a link that takes users to a Taiwan FactCheck Center report before they are allowed to view the content.

Our approach includes removing fake accounts, reducing the spread of misinformation, bringing transparency to political advertising, disrupting information operations and working with Taiwan’s Central Election Commission to promote civic engagement.

According to the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO), by the time the Kaohsiung Fan Group was removed, it had 109 admins and moderators, a number the SIO said was “unusually high compared to the average admin and moderator counts for Taiwanese political groups of either affiliation (pro-Han Kuo-yu groups averaged 27, and pro-Tsai Ing-wen Groups, 10).”

As Su wrote in the Los Angeles Times, many posts “try to stir emotions on hot-button issues–for example, false claims that Tsai’s government has misused pension funds to lure Korean and Japanese tourists to make up for a drop in visitors from the mainland, and that organizers of Taiwan’s annual gay-rights parade received stipends to invite overseas partners to march with them.”

Creators of fake news continue to take advantage of the issue by spreading homophobic disinformation, including claims that the DPP spent NT$30 million (about $980,000) to organize Taipei’s Pride Parade, even though the event is funded by its organizers and does not receive sponsorship from political parties.

Facebook to ban deepfakes, sources say, but new policy may not cover controversial Pelosi video

Facebook plans to issue new rules as soon as Tuesday that would ban users from posting computer-generated, highly manipulated videos, known as deepfakes, seeking to stop the spread of a novel form of misinformation months before the 2020 presidential election.

Going forward, Facebook intends to ban videos that are 'edited or synthesized' by technologies such as artificial intelligence in a way that average users would not easily spot, the people said, including attempts to make the subject of a video say words that they never did.

Nor does the policy seem to restrain other simpler forms of video deception, such as mislabeling footage, splicing dialogue or taking quotes out of context, as in a video last week in which a long response Joe Biden delivered to an audience in New Hampshire was heavily trimmed to make him sound racist.

Siwei Lyu, the director of a computer-vision lab at the State University of New York at Albany and member of the Deepfake Detection Challenge's advisory group, applauded Facebook's attempts to clearly pinpoint altered media, saying, 'the line drawn on user-discernible manipulated videos is operable and useful for implementing this policy.'

The language that Facebook is using to delineate its rules resembles a policy raised at a June 2019 meeting in San Francisco convened by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to discuss how social media platforms should deal with manipulated media ahead of the 2020 election, according to a person who was present at the meeting.

The person, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meeting had been private, said there was significant debate about what degree of editing is required before something is declared misleading and whether social media companies should adopt more sweeping rules against deceptive content.

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