Taipei Mayor faces backlash on Facebook after controversial comments

Once a key social media influencer, Ko Wen-je loses 6 percent of his fans on Facebook

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(Screen capture from Ko Wen-je's Facebook page)

(Screen capture from Ko Wen-je's Facebook page)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) is facing a backlash on social media after his recent comments intended to boost popularity have backfired.

Ko’s Facebook page likes dwindled to less than two million on Saturday (Sept. 7) morning, a new low for the mayor since social media campaigns calling on netizens to remove likes on his page were initiated in early August. As of press time, Ko’s Facebook page likes stand at 1,992,363.

According to another Facebook page that has been monitoring the loss of likes on the mayor’s Facebook page, Ko’s page likes have plummeted from about 2.1 million to 1.99 million by this morning, a decrease of about 120,000, in a little more than one month.

Facebook is one of the main channels Taiwanese politicians use to reach electorates and promote their policies. Among them, Ko, a doctor-turned politician, has been considered one of the few who has successfully gained huge traction since he entered politics in 2014.

However, recent comments made by Ko have backfired. Around the same time, the mayor formed a new political party on Aug. 6 and pledged to obtain legislative representation.

Anti-Ko campaigns were started on social media when Ko openly suggested comments critical of him on his Facebook posts were made mainly by the “1450,” a social media slang word mocking netizens that support the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The rate of diminishing likes on Ko’s Facebook began at an average rate of a few thousands in the first couple of weeks, then ebbed away to a thousand or a few hundreds a day through mid-August, the monitor page said. Over the past few weeks, Ko has continued to gain likes on his page, but the number has been far less than the amount he is losing.

This week, the loss of likes on Ko’s Facebook hiked up again after the mayor reportedly gossiped over pregnancy rumors surrounding a newly-wed celebrity model. His comment prompted criticisms against him over his lack of professional ethics as a doctor and allegations of invading the celebrity’s privacy.

The next day, Ko’s rebuttal of a DPP lawmaker’s criticism against him once again provoked a public outcry, as he called Secretary-General to the Presidential Office Chen Chu (陳菊) “a fat Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜),” referring to the Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate.

The decrease of page likes has so far made up six percent of the mayor’s total page likes. Even though there is no way to know whether 120,000 cancelations of page likes will equate to a loss of votes for Ko, who has refrained from announcing any presidential bid, netizens have pointed out that Ko’s traction on Facebook since mid-August has slackened considerably behind Tsai and Han.


▶︎ (Screen capture from FB專頁儀表板)

Ke Yu-an (柯昱安), Ko’s campaign office employee who has been managing the mayor’s social media accounts, said earlier they anticipate a loss of Facebook of fans as anti-Ko campaigns get underway. Many of Ko’s previous supporters are also expected to favor Tsai in a potential presidential match-up, he added.