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China’s Taiwan exercises accompanied by a wave of misinformation

#Chinas #Taiwan #exercises #accompanied #wave #misinformation

Taiwan has seen a surge in online misinformation as China hosted huge military drills this month, much of which aimed to undermine the democratic island’s morale and push Beijing’s narrative.

China raged against a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei, sending warships, missiles and jets into the waters and skies around its self-governing neighbor.

At the same time, pro-Chinese posts flooded social media with false and misleading claims about Pelosi and her Taiwanese hosts.

Many were posts that shared old military footage, along with claims they showed real military exercises, mostly by China.

And as tensions in the Taiwan Strait rose to their highest level in years, fact-checkers played a game of whack-a-mole around the clock.

Charles Yeh, editor-in-chief of Taiwan fact-checking website MyGoPen, said most of the misinformation his team observed was anti-American and promoted the idea that the island should “surrender” to China.

“In addition to military exercises in the physical world, China has also launched offensives in the online world – cyber attacks and misinformation,” he said.

– misogyny –

Pelosi, a seasoned critic of Beijing’s human rights record, was the highest-ranking American elected official to visit Taiwan in decades, and her trip drew widespread interest in China.

A hashtag for her name garnered around 800 million views on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo the day she landed.

When millions saw a Weibo livestream from a flight tracking site showing Pelosi’s flight landing in Taiwan, unsubstantiated claims surfaced that her plane was forced to return to the US after suffering heat stroke.

Some Chinese users viciously insulted her, many misogynist, as they branded her a “mad witch” and questioned why she was allowed to circumvent Taiwan’s strict Covid quarantine measures.

Asked about the reaction during her trip, Pelosi addressed the gender criticism head on.

“I think they made a fuss because I’m a speaker, I think,” she said.

“I don’t know if that was a reason or an excuse because they didn’t say anything when the men came,” she added, citing previous visits by male US politicians.

The comment elicited a wry laugh from the woman standing next to her, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.

– An Open Internet –

One of Asia’s most advanced democracies, Taiwan enjoys a much freer media environment than authoritarian mainland China, where a “great firewall” and pervasive state censorship stand guard.

However, this means that misinformation can often spread easily, both on major social media sites and on more local messaging boards like PTT.

Taiwanese defense officials said they had identified about 270 “false” online claims in the past few weeks.

In one case, police arrested a woman accused of spreading a false message via messaging app LINE that said Beijing had decided to evacuate Chinese citizens in Taiwan.

In a news conference, a police spokesman said the woman was trying to “destabilize Taiwan” by relaying the message.

In other widely-noticed posts, an alert allegedly issued by China’s state news agency Xinhua falsely claimed that on March 15, China

The news – which has been viewed more than 356,000 times on Chinese app TikTok – said Taiwan’s army would be disbanded and an opposition party politician installed as governor.

The same claim circulated again and again on Facebook.

AFP’s fact check team found no evidence that the state news agency had published such a report.

Another video falsely claiming that the Kinmen Islands – a cluster of Taiwanese-controlled islands off the coast of mainland China – had agreed to be handed over to Chinese rule racked up more than 80,000 views on YouTube in two days .

– “opinion formation” –

Summer Chen, editor-in-chief of Taiwan’s FactCheck Center, said Chinese-language misinformation spreads quickly and widely, making it impossible for fact-checkers alone to stem the flow entirely.

“(Fact checkers) mostly juxtapose the misleading claims and the official clarification, but by that time the claims will have already served their purpose of shaping public opinion,” she said.

Since 2018, a handful of Chinese-language fact-checking organizations, most nonprofits, have been established in Taiwan, citing a growing need to crack down on misinformation, which they say aims to destabilize the island’s democracy.

MyGoPen and Taiwan’s FactCheck Center are among Taiwanese organizations working with Facebook’s owner Meta to reduce the spread of misinformation.

AFP is also part of Meta’s third-party fact-checking program.

Chen said it’s important for Taiwanese people to think critically about what they read online and not rely solely on fact-checkers.

“It’s easy (for us) to debunk this type of misinformation, but it’s more important for the public to rationally reject this type of information and not fall into traps,” she said.

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#Chinas #Taiwan #exercises #accompanied #wave #misinformation

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