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Media Literacy

EDITORIAL: Media skills are more important than ever


China has stepped up its disinformation campaign against Taiwan and used a COVID-19 outbreak to incite displeasure against the government, an international newspaper said on Tuesday.

The Financial Times report said that Chinese media claimed that “tens of thousands of Taiwanese flocked to China to get vaccinated,” and that “Taipei planned to vaccinate its diplomatic allies when it did not have enough to feed theirs.” vaccinate own population ”. – Claims rejected by the government.

Such rumors are then often spread in Taiwan via social media such as the line messaging app or the PTT online bulletin board and are often picked up by Taiwanese media, the newspaper said, adding that the problem was caused by a lack of “journalistic rigor “Will be perpetuated” in the country.

The government certainly faces a dilemma of holding the mainstream media accountable for what is being reported while ensuring freedom of the press. One way to address the problem – which, according to the Financial Times, groups in Taiwan are working on – is to train high school students how to critically assess the validity of information they encounter.

After President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) offered condolences to people affected by a building collapse in Florida on Twitter last week, a response came from an apparently fake account. The user appeared to be a white man named “Rick Consens” and wrote, “Tsai’s heart goes around everywhere except for people who live in Taiwan.” If one or the other grammar was not clue enough, a look at the biography , the user’s followers and other tweets made it clear that it was a fake account, probably created by someone in China.

Even so, the response was shared on the anti-democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Facebook pages. A user named Yu Chun-sheng (余俊 昇) – whose “cover photo” was an altered DPP logo begging someone and showing the words “vaccine beggar” – shared the response on an ETtoday news post and wrote, “Vegetable buckets [Tsai] mourns foreigners, but even foreigners have had enough of it. ”

It is largely irrelevant what foreigners think of Taiwan’s president, but the intent of the tweet from the fake account is the same as that of all the misinformation produced by China – to provoke dissatisfaction and doubt in the government and a rift in Taiwanese society to cause .

The aim of these tactics is to influence politics and election results, and to promote politicians and laws that are Beijing-friendly or compliant. This is a slow process, but as anti-vaccine campaigns and elections elsewhere in the world have shown, people can be manipulated through such processes.

People consume information in “bite-sized” amounts on mobile devices, effectively tweeting and internet memes manipulating voters over time. China’s most popular meme topic right now seems to portray Tsai as a despot.

If China’s disinformation campaign can offer any consolation, it is that it shows Beijing’s likely lack of confidence in its ability to succeed in a military invasion of Taiwan. Of course, China’s internet troll army and its propaganda rag Global Times would vehemently deny this, but why should China spend time and resources on information warfare if it could achieve its goals militarily?

China also regularly denies – through official press releases and through numerous fake reports from its troll army – that claims about China-produced hoaxes are themselves “fake news,” but that is to be expected.

The government should ensure that students take compulsory media literacy courses to help them make informed decisions about what to see and read. News agencies and social media platforms could also be required to flag information that has been classified as questionable by an independent body.

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