Chinese maneuvers accompanied by a wave of disinformation in Taiwan

Chinese maneuvers accompanied by a wave of disinformation in Taiwan

Taiwanese are targeted by online disinformation, an attempt by Beijing to destabilize the island.

In early August, Taiwan saw not only Chinese military aircraft maneuvering off the island, but also a swarm of fake news appearing on its social media, often to undermine local morale and promote Beijing's narrative. /p>

In the waters and in the skies, China has sent warships and fighter jets around the island to protest against the visit of the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States Nancy Pelosi on August 2 in Taipei.

At the same time, pro-China posts flooded social media with false or misleading claims.

In addition to military exercises in the physical world, China also launched offensives in online: cyberattacks and misinformation, according to Charles Yeh, editor of Taiwanese fact-checking site MyGoPen.

The majority of the misinformation his team uncovered was anti-American, supporting the idea that the island should surrender to China, he adds.

As millions of internet users followed on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, the progress of her flight to Taiwan, unsubstantiated claims claimed that she had suffered heat stroke and that her plane had been damaged. forced to turn back to the United States.

Some Chinese users have hurled insults at her, often of a misogynistic nature, calling her, for example, a crazy old skin and asking why she was able to escape the strict health quarantine measures underway in Taiwan.

Asked about these reactions, Pelosi said she believes they made a big deal out of it because [she is] Speaker of the House.

I don't know not whether that was a reason or an excuse, because they didn't say anything when men came, she added, referring to previous visits by male US officials. /p>

Taiwan is one of the most progressive democracies in Asia and has a freer press than China, where a Great Firewall – pun referring to the Great Wall of China, Great Wall in English – and state censorship rule the web.

But this freedom encourages the circulation of false information, both on major social networks and on local messaging.

Taiwanese defense officials have claimed to have identified some 270 false allegations on the Internet in recent weeks.

And police arrested a woman accused of sharing a message on the LINE app, claiming that Beijing had decided to evacuate Chinese citizens from Taiwan.

She was trying to destabilize Taiwan, a police spokesman said.

In another widely read publication, a warning message purportedly issued by the New China official press maintained that Beijing would regain sovereignty over Taiwan on August 15.

The message, seen more than 356,000 times on the Chinese application TikTok, assured that the Taiwanese army would be disbanded and that an opposition party official would be appointed governor.

AFP's verification team found no trace of such an article published by China's official news agency.

Summer Chen, editor-in-chief of Taiwan's FactCheck Center, explains that this misinformation in Chinese spreads very quickly and widely, making it impossible for fact checkers.

These usually present the misleading claims and official explanations side by side, but by this point the claims will have already served their purpose of shaping public opinion, she pointed out.< /p>

In late 2018, a handful of fact-checking organizations sprung up in Taiwan, mostly from NGOs wanting to combat misinformation which they say seeks to destabilize the island.

For Ms. Chen, it is also important that Taiwanese people take a critical look at what they read in line and don't rely entirely on fact checkers.

It's easy [for us] to dismantle this kind of d misinformation, but it is more important that the public rationally rejects this kind of information and avoids falling into the traps, she explains.

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