TAIPEI, Taiwan — With the advent of internet and social media, thus came the rise of disinformation. As the internet enabled the dissemination of information in just seconds, it also allowed fake news to spread like wildfire.
And most of the time, the lies are more enticing than the truth.
A well-informed electorate is the bedrock of a thriving democracy but a democracy is healthy when its people are allowed to speak out their minds, even if they may be false.
So, how would you draw the line?
Taiwan officially opened its new Ministry of Digital Affairs (MoDA) in August this year, a freshly minted agency in charge of the country’s “overall digital policy innovation and reform.”
The agency also deals with fake information found in digital platforms.
However, MoDA believes it is not the government that should be the one to dictate whether a piece of information is true or not.
MoDA deputy minister Ning Yeh said it is “not right” for the government to “censor any statement or any speech that has been made on the internet.”
The role of the government, he said, is to provide the public with the necessary tools to fend off disinformation, informing its residents that the fight against fake news “relies on everyone’s efforts.”
“When it comes to tackling disinformation, MoDa’s position is that we will only tackle information when we know that it is harmful and it is intentional,” Yeh told an international press group visiting Taiwan.
“We want everyone to take the responsibility. The MoDA wants the public to know that not everything you see on the internet is correct. They have to always take it with a grain of salt,” he added.
Aside from this, the agency also helps civil societies, private businesses and other organizations to “develop the mechanisms where they can fact-check information very quickly.”
Yeh said MoDA will also “pay every effort to develop new technologies” that will enable the public to understand that there is a possibility of deep-fake videos and photos.
“We want to help people understand that everything we see on the internet is not always true. We also want to give them the right tools to fact-check as well,” he said.
Civil societies, organizations for fact-checking
The Taiwan government believes that it should not be the one to judge whether a piece of information is fake as they “want everybody to be involved,” Yeh said.
He said there are civil societies and organizations in Taiwan that are dedicated to fact-checking campaign.
Among these is the Taiwan FactCheck Center which, Yeh said, “uses a lot of sources to verify whether or not a piece of information is fake.”
According to its website, the FactCheck Center, which was established in April 2018, fact-checks claims related to public interest issues to promote reliable information, digital literacy, and improve the information ecology in Taiwan.
It aims to “make Taiwan a better and stronger democratic society.”
As far as the Taiwan government is concerned, Yeh said it will not be the one to judge whether an information is fake or not, but it aims to become the “provider of correct information.”
But in the face of disinformation, how can the truth trump out the lies?
Yeh believes that correct information should be given real-time and should be enticing to the public.
“I think the key lies with the fact whether or not we can provide this information in a real-time or fast manner and the second part is we have to deliver these messages in a very fun way so that we can actually attract people to believe or to actually see this message,” he said.
“This is something that we should and can do to help secure the internet world,” he added.
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