Taiwan's first fact-checking center launches to battle fake news

Taiwan Fact Checking Center launched in Taiwan with the aim of combating fake news

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(Screenshot from Taiwan FactCheck Center)

(Screenshot from Taiwan FactCheck Center)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Two local non-profit organizations have joined forces to created the first fact-checking organization in Taiwan, Taiwan Fact Check Center, with its first piece released on Tuesday (July 31).

The Taiwan Fact Checking Center has been created through a collaboration of Taiwan Media Watch and the Association for Quality Journalism.

Hu Yuan-hui (胡元輝), head of the Association for Quality Journalism and a professor at National Chung Cheng University's Department of Communication, announced the launch of the center in April. Hu said the site will consist of a team of four fact-checkers who will be led by award-winning journalist and part-time assistant professor at National Taiwan University's Graduate Institute of Journalism, Huang Chao-hui (黃兆徽).

The center's website laments that the culture of journalism in Taiwan is still weak, civil communication is not mature and political discord is severe. The site claims that the confusion of facts and false news distorts the views of people to a worse extent than in the North America and Europe.

Through the principles of professionalism, transparency and impartiality, the center hopes to curb the negative impact of false information and enhance the information literacy of the public to better foster the Democratic development of Taiwan.

Those who register on the website can submit reports of fake news and include evidence that refutes such spurious stories.

The center has raised approximately NT$2 million (US$68,084) from businesses and groups funding, from companies like CTBC Bank. The center also aims to crowd fund another NT$2 million.

In its first attempt at checking the veracity of a version of story that was reported in some Taiwanese media that Palau Pacific Airways had ceased flight operations because Beijing had punished the chairman Chiu Hung-chao (邱宏照) for being pro-Taiwan independence. Taiwan Fact Checking Center's conclusion was that the airline had ceased operations for commercial reasons and that Chiu was in fact not in favor of Taiwan independence.

The arguably more important facts that were somewhat muddied in the Taiwan Fact Checking Center's first report were that Beijing did cut Chinese tourism to punish Palau for its ties with Taiwan and this did indeed cause the shutdown of the airline. The editorial decision to fixate on fact-checking Chiu's political stance was an odd first choice, as it gave short shrift to the factual news that Beijing had used tourism to inflict economic damage on a diplomatic ally of Taiwan and led to the closure of the airline.