Taiwan Steps Up Efforts To Increase Public Media Literacy To Combat Fake News, East Asia News & Top Stories



TAIPEI – A video of Taiwanese Minister of Health Chen Shih-chung singing into a microphone at a dinner drew criticism from netizens and an opposition leader when it began circulating online last Wednesday ( November 10) at night.

The chairman of the main opposition Kuomintang party, Eric Chu, has hinted that the minister should step down for being frivolous during the Covid-19 pandemic.

People who shared the video alleged the minister was having fun, in a mask, in June this year when the island suffered from a number of local outbreaks and was subsequently locked down.

But they got one thing wrong.

Last Thursday, ahead of his daily Covid-19 briefing, Mr Chen said the video was taken in June of last year, when Taiwan was still seeing a low number of cases and there were no restriction on people’s usual activities.

While the misunderstanding was quickly rectified, the incident showed how quickly disinformation spreads in Taiwan.

“Taiwan must redouble its efforts to educate its people on how to identify fake news,” said Professor Hung Chen-ling, director of the University Institute of Journalism at National Taiwan University (NTU).

She told the Straits Times: “The widespread spread of fake news and disinformation has particularly worsened in recent years, and the 2018 Kansai airport incident showed just how harmful fake news can be. .

In the incident, Mr. Su Chi-cheng, director of Taiwan’s representative office in Osaka, hanged himself after being wrongly accused of neglecting Taiwanese passengers stranded at Kansai airport during a typhoon, while travelers from China were picked up by the Chinese Embassy.

Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, reporting the tragic event, said: “Taiwan is shaken by fake news.”

While Professor Hung believes Mr. Su’s death has led the Taiwanese government and the public to reflect on how they should prevent such tragedies from happening again, the ongoing pandemic has seen an increase in the spread of disinformation.

A disinformation study conducted by the Swedish University of Gothenburg identifies Taiwan as one of the most frequent targets of fake news, she noted.

Many civic groups have launched fact-checking services to help Taiwanese determine whether information shared on social media sites and through messaging apps is fact or fiction. They include Taiwan FactCheck Center, Cofacts, and News Helper.

“But less than 25% of Taiwanese have used these fact-checking services,” NTU professor Wang Tai-li told a journalism seminar on Friday.

“The remaining 75 percent may have heard of the misinformation, but they may not know how to distinguish it and deal with it.”

Some elementary and middle schools have incorporated media literacy classes into their curriculum to help students identify fake news in everyday life.

Meanwhile, journalists and educators are working with tech giants like Google and the Line messaging app to improve media literacy for Taiwanese.

On November 4, the Taiwan FactCheck Center announced that it will hold some 600 media literacy workshops over the next three years, thanks to a donation of US $ 1 million (S $ 1.35 million) from Google. to fund anti-disinformation initiatives.

The workshops will target those who may be disadvantaged by Taiwan’s ever-changing online scene, including the elderly, residents living in remote areas and new immigrants.

Taiwan FactCheck Center Chairman Hu Yuan-hui said, “Fact checking is not all-powerful. It is more important to raise awareness (among Taiwanese), so that they automatically question the information they receive and verify the facts.

As much of the disinformation in Taiwan spreads via Line, the company has launched several initiatives to tackle fake news while promising to maintain user privacy.

The new features of the app allow the 19 million users in Taiwan, who make up 80% of the island’s population, to report fake news or disinformation they receive through Line.

In the past two years, some 500,000 reports have been filed, said Line Taiwan General Manager Mr. Chen Li-ren.

The app also posts stories on its Line Today news sharing platform that have been proven to be false.

“Since the Covid-19 epidemic, the viewing rate of this section has quadrupled,” Chen said.

The feature is also available for users in Hong Kong, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Mr. Chen added that the company has also developed interactive lessons and games for teachers to use in media literacy classes at school, and Line hopes children will share what they have learned with their children. parents and grandparents.

Mr. Hu of the Taiwan FactCheck Center said, “All stakeholders should be involved – members of the public, media, technology companies, fact-checking organizations, academia, government.


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