Law in the Internet Society

21st Century Puppet Show in Taiwan


My first realization that the press is biased came when I was in senior year of university in a media literacy course. The professor will request each student to buy and read newspapers published by four of the main newspaper publishers in Taiwan, and most importantly, lay them out by the headline pages and compare their differences. I would not forget how diverse the headlines were the first time I laid all the four papers on the table, two of them were reporting on the same issue but as they are related to two opposite political parties, one is praising the ruling party and the other is full-on criticism; the other two, based on their distinctive targeted readers, presented totally different news. By viewing the different bold topic and pictures from the four papers, I saw how the papers are striving to shape their readers’ world of what they want them to believe. As I normally only read one of the four newspapers, I was shocked by the revelation that I have been viewing the world through a biased filter. That is when I became cautious and skeptical to every news or information presented before me.

Current situation in Taiwan

Fake news

The premise is clear, the press, not only the newspapers but also cable news are not neutral, they take side on an issue based on their patron. Sometimes it is already difficult for some Taiwaneses to recognize the political preference of different media, those Taiwaneses can be easily swayed to dislike certain politicians or to believe something that is not even real. The recent example will be a suicide of a Taiwan representative stationed in Osaka, Japan.

On September 4, 2018, Typhoon Jebi stroke Osaka's Kansai International Airport, causing the flooding and broke the bridge that connected the airport to the Osaka city, leaving 3000 passengers stranded at the airport, and among them includes 500 Taiwanese tourists. On September 6, 2018, a user at the PTT (one of the biggest online forum in Taiwan) posted a thread depicting how he/she was stranded at the Kansai airport, and as everyone was eager to leave the airport, at that time, only the Chinese embassy has sent buses to transport its citizen to the city, and providing links to relevant news reports; moreover, Taiwanese tourists were forced to declare they are “Chinese” citizens to board the bus. Later, the PTT user claimed that he/she called the Taiwan embassy for further assistance and was rudely rejected by said embassy. The Taiwan embassy in Osaka surely became the target of heavy criticism. Although the foregoing has all been proven false after a few days, certain blood-lust media took this issue as a great chance to cripple the ruling party and stir up the anger of Taiwaneses who are already mad at the ruling party. This madness went on for weeks in Taiwan, until no one cares about what really happened that day at Kansai airport, but only the anger against the ruling party. On September 14, 2018, the head of Taiwan's representative office in Osaka commit suicide, stating in his testament that he would rather not live in the misery of being wrongly accused.

I would want to say that Taiwan media learned their lesson to not report false information until it is proven valid, sadly, that is not the case, as just in the following two months, held the Mayor election, which is the great time for the press to make a mess.

Cyber warriors

As implied in the Cambridge Analytica case, there is a way to manipulate people to vote for certain candidates by using the information one gives out on social media; in Taiwan, there exist another way of manipulating people, which is the rise of cyber warriors, in an attempt to confuse other users the popularity of certain politician. One of the elected city mayor, Mr. Han, in Taiwan has proven the strength of cyber warriors: from a nobody to a city mayor and became the candidate to run for the 2020 presidency election. As his election of city mayor came as a big surprise for many, people started to examine how the candidate build up his popularity during the course. The answer is a certain Facebook fanpage supporting Mr. Han, which would regularly produce fake news to criticize other candidates, or encourage its fans to attack other news sources that report negative stories of Mr. Han. Strangely enough, according to their Internet Protocol, many of those “fans” do not seem to reside in Taiwan, but rather come from Mainland China. By mobilizing these fans, the people behind said fan page created an impression that Mr. Han is gaining popularity and will surely lead the city to a promising future.

Regarding why said Facebook fanpage is believed to be the source behind fake news, originated from the phenomenon that after a negative news (article or television show) regarding Mr. Han is published, said fanpage will generate images that contains rebutting sentences regarding said negative news and post it on the fanpage; and soon after, the message groups of Mr. Han's supporters on Line (a communication app in Taiwan, similar to Whatsapp) will be swarmed with these rebutting images to brainwash their supporters that the negative news piece is trying to diminish Mr. Han and not to be trusted. To be clear, most of the negative news against Mr. Han are true, while the rebutting images created by the suspicious fanpage are usually fake, where the fanpage will use photoshop to delete unwanted people or objects, or even misplace news clips which are discussing irrelevant matters in the subject matter and trying to mislead people that are viewing the rebutting images.


The results of the two forces playing behind the Taiwanese election is the election of Mr. Han, who, based on his recent conducts, is not the able man that will lead the city to a promising future. The silver lining is that more and more people became aware of how their surroundings, such as news on social media or online comments of certain Politian, are fabricated to trick them. Although Facebook is now deemed as hotbed of fake news, younger generation is also now exploiting the instant delivery of information feature of Facebook to break fake news as soon as they emerge. As now the puppets are aware of the strings tying them, the coming presidential election of Taiwan in January will be the tug saw of self-aware dolls and the strings.


Webs Webs

r3 - 25 Dec 2019 - 06:46:25 - AnneWu
This site is powered by the TWiki collaboration platform.
All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
All material marked as authored by Eben Moglen is available under the license terms CC-BY-SA version 4.
Syndicate this site RSSATOM