Taipei (Taiwan News) - Fake news stories have not only run amok in the United States and left a huge impact on its November elections but have also gone wild in Taiwan, vexing the Tsai administration, which sees them as a conspiracy from Chinese netizens seeking to undermine national unity.
Late last year, fake news stories began circulating through Line and other social networking apps. The first batch of apparent fake news stories concerned radiation-tainted foods from Fukushima, later in December, an image surfaced of a Chinese military aircraft supposedly caught on camera flying alarmingly close to Taiwan.
An article titled "See How the U.S. FDA Handles Foods from Fukushima" spread rapidly through the Internet and social networking and chat groups, claiming that the U.S. FDA was able to detain any food products exported from 14 areas of Japan with no need to justify inspection, but the truth is that the U.S. was only rejecting the imports of food products which are also banned in Japan. A food safety official discovered that the fake news came from China, which first appeared in 2015 but made a comeback in 2016.
In December, the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force published a picture on its official Sina Weibo account of a Xi'an H-6K cruise missile bomber marked with a communist red star flying above the clouds. In the background, two mountain peaks appear above the cloud cover, which were later identified by the mainland Chinese news site Guancha.cn as Taiwan's tallest peak, Yushan or Jade Mountain. The news story spread quickly through local social media platforms and raised worries among netizens, despite the Ministry of National Defense's denial of the claim that the mountain featured in the picture was Yushan.
Another official was quoted by Chinese-language Liberty Times as saying that the fake news stories were written in traditional Chinese characters (as used in Taiwan), but usually consisted of language or grammar typical of mainland China. And many of them were associated with major political events and were suspected of creating tension and worries within the country, according to the official. President Tsai Ing-wen is reportedly concerned by the fake news, worrying that government policies could be intentionally and maliciously distorted, eclipsing people's confidence and trust in the government.
To counter the fake news threat, relevant government agencies have set up a "rumor-busted section" on their websites to deliver correct information and to communicate with the public; the administration will also hammer out a more efficient solution to stop fake news based on successful cases in other countries.