Agencies aim to counter Chinese propaganda on the web

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INFLUENCERS:
The Communist Party of China uses social media to portray itself in a positive light, while promoting historic ties between Taiwan and China

  • By Chen Yu-fu and William Hetherington / Journalist, with editor

Government agencies are considering measures to counter China’s use of Taiwanese internet celebrities to wage “cognitive warfare” campaigns in Taiwan, a source said yesterday.

China has trained local internet celebrities to help it spread propaganda as part of its ‘united front’ efforts against Taiwan, the source said, adding that Beijing also uses TikTok, a Pinterest-like app called Xiaohongshu. (also known as Little Red Book) and other social media to influence Taiwanese youth.

Citing the Mainland Affairs Council, the source said officials had warned people cooperating with China that they risked fines or other penalties.

Photo: Reuters

The stipulations of the Law Governing Relations between People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Region (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) and the Anti-Infiltration Law (反滲透法) prohibit helping China to disseminate propaganda, they said.

Article 33-1 of the Law Governing the Relations between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area states that it is illegal to engage in “any form of cooperative activity with the agencies, institutions or organizations in the continental region which are political parties, the army, the administration or of any political nature.

The Chinese Communist Party generally uses social media to project a positive image of itself and to spread ideas about Taiwan’s historical ties with China, the source said.

“All this with the aim of changing young people’s perception of China and cross-Strait relations,” the source said.

China also holds events it invites Taiwanese youth to attend, including a “cross-strait youth development forum” held last week in Hangzhou, China, the source said, adding that Taiwanese internet celebrities have attended remotely via video conference in the past few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If the content shared by these Taiwanese on behalf of China contains false information, it could also be punishable under measures targeting fake news and disinformation,” the source said, citing statements from lawmakers from the Democratic Progressive Party. .

Lawmakers face challenges in addressing this as they also need to protect free speech when designing legislation, but the Anti-Infiltration Law would likely be amended to better protect against such efforts by China, the source said.

The National Communications Commission is also seeking to tackle the issue through a digital communications bill, the source said, adding that the Mainland Affairs Council is also working with the Ministry of Education to educate students about the risks of using TikTok, Xiaohongshu and other Chinese apps.

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