Disinformation Biggest Threat to Taiwan’s Democracy: CSOs Say Shift in Narrative Needed

Around 50 individuals from CSOs, diplomatic missions, media, think tanks, and universities gathered at Taiwan National University on 16 April 2024 to discuss concerns related to disinformation—the biggest digital threat facing the country. During the session, seven panellists shared their observations that there is a need to go beyond fact-checking and media literacy and focus on shifting the narratives disrupted by disinformation.

The event co-convened by Asia Centre and Office of International Affairs, National Taiwan University (NTU-OIA) with support from Google, is part of a year long Digital Rights Programme for Civil Society Organisations. This meeting in Taiwan is part of a suite of monthly online and onsite activities.


During the welcome remarks segment, Professor Hsiao-Wei Yuan, Vice President for International Affairs welcomed all participants and stressed the importance of discussing issues of disinformation. While Dr James Gomez, Regional Director of Asia Centre highlighted the important role CSOs play in combating disinformation. Chenie Yoon, Lead APAC Content Regulation, Google emphasised how collaborations across sectors and borders are important to ensure freedom of expression and access to information.

At the panel discussion titled “Navigating the Digital Landscape: Responses from CSOs to Disinformation and Digital Threats in Taiwan,” seven panellists addressed disinformation from their various organisational perspectives.

Isis M. Lee, Vice President, Radio Taiwan International (Rti) who moderated the panel discussion of “Navigating the Digital Landscape: Responses from CSOs to Disinformation and Digital Threats in Taiwan” reminded participants that disinformation in Taiwan extends beyond its borders. In particular, she pointed to how  disinformation is used for manipulation. 

Leah Lin, Executive Director of the Asia Citizen Future Association (ACFA), stressed the significance of technology in fostering dialogue in society, despite challenges like regulatory constraints and resource limitations faced by CSOs. She highlighted emerging digital threats like organised online attacks and surveillance abuses pose risks to human rights changemakers. Her suggestion was to build solidarity among CSOs to safeguard civic space against evolving digital threats and urged CSOs to form alliances and propose digital rights declarations.

Hsin-I Lin, Director of the Social Advocacy Division at the Taiwan Reach-Out Association for Democracy (T-ROAD), highlighted the multifaceted digital threats confronting Taiwan from both physical and virtual realms, particularly exacerbated by the growing influence of foreign cultural and political propaganda. She highlighted the need for effective media literacy and constructive dialogue among diverse groups in Taiwan to overcome this foreign influence. 

Chao Hwei Hwang, Chief of Content at Taiwan AI Labs & Foundation, shed light on the digital landscape surrounding the 2024 Taiwan presidential election by revealing the use of generative AI and disinformation tactics to sway public opinion. She pointed to the influence from foreign state-owned media orchestrating narratives that threaten Taiwan’s democratic values. Her recommendation was to leverage AI tools to gather reliable information from various news sources and social media platforms.

Alvin Chang, Managing Director of the Taiwan Youth Association for Democracy (TYAD), raised concerns that as young Taiwanese engage in online platforms, they are potentially influenced and manipulated by social media from abroad. He underscored the importance of media literacy education among Taiwanese youth and urged for regulatory adaptation. He said youth must be empowered to actively engage in politics and advocate for media transparency and accountability. 

Marcin Jerzewski, Head of the Taiwan Office at the European Values Center for Security Policy, addressed the need for a comprehensive approach to combat disinformation and uphold democratic values of Taiwan. He highlighted that efforts to tackle digital threats often lack intersectionality, leaving indigenous and ageing populations behind. Jerzewski suggested reform to media literacy education in Taiwan to target senior citizens and indigenous communities. 

Filip Noubel, Managing Editor of Global Voices stressed the complexity and dynamics of disinformation. He mentioned the power of the narrative in shaping public perception, distrust, and polarisation. Noubel underlined the importance of narrative analysis in combating disinformation which he opined was more effective compared to fact-checking. He proposed the Community Civic Media Observatory (CCMO) initiative, which involves exploring various sources beyond traditional media to uncover underlying narratives. In line with the CCMO, Noubel also called for increased media literacy education among the Taiwanese public. 

The panel discussion ended with a networking session among all those present that lasted a good one hour. Many exchanged information of their work and sought out collaboration opportunities. 

To watch the highlights of the Country Meeting in Taiwan, click here.

For those interested, upcoming online sessions of the Digital Rights Programme for CSOs in 2024 will cover topics on Media Information Literacy (16 May) , Surveillance & Privacy (18 July), Foreign Interference (15 August), and Artificial Intelligence (19 September). Meanwhile, plans are underway for on-site sessions in Cambodia and Malaysia.

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