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WHO lifts ban on 'Taiwan' in Facebook comments

WHO said censorship a response to 'onslaught of cyber attacks,' bans mention of 'Winnie the Pooh'

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WHO's censoring of the word "Taiwan" on Facebook page backfired. (Facebook, WHO screenshot)

WHO's censoring of the word "Taiwan" on Facebook page backfired. (Facebook, WHO screenshot)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The World Health Organization (WHO) has defended its decision to censor comments containing keywords such as “Taiwan” on its Facebook video — though it later unlocked these while filtering out “Winnie the Pooh.”

Taiwanese netizens were shocked earlier this week after finding they could not leave a comment containing the word “Taiwan” on the WHO’s Facebook page. The World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO’s decision-making body, resumed virtually on Monday (Nov. 9), and the U.N. health agency has been streaming meetings via the social media platform.

Netizens bombarded the WHO’s Facebook with comments such as “Taiwan can help,” a mantra used to promote Taiwan’s international standing. Commenters then began to change the keywords slightly by using special characters in order to evade censorship.

The health body later confirmed it had blocked some keywords from its Facebook page, including “Taiwan” and “China,” as a “practical measure” as it “faces an onslaught of cyber attacks.” Reuters reported the agency as saying its social media team had applied content filters to “enable our users to avoid being spammed through cyber attacks, including from bots, and to find a balanced way to keep information and conversation flowing.”

The WHO later said it had adjusted the settings to allow users to once again leave comments containing “Taiwan” and “China.” Even so, posting “Winnie the Pooh” — a mocking reference to China’s leader Xi Jinping (習近平) — is still not allowed.

WHO lifts ban on 'Taiwan' in Facebook comments
Posts containing 'Winnie the Pooh' censored by WHO on Facebook. (WHO, Facebook screenshot)

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said via a statement on Thursday (Nov. 12) that “it expresses strong regret and dissatisfaction” with the WHO. It contends the international organization “should uphold neutral and professional positions.”

Taiwan’s Representative to the U.S. Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said on Twitter that “It would be an outrage to see the WHO and Facebook teaming up to do China’s dirty work of censoring the success story in the fight against COVID-19.”


Updated : 2021-01-27 13:17 GMT+08:00