TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Taiwan government-funded military think tank has warned of the danger posed by Chinese internet trolls, describing it as a new type of warfare that could jeopardize Taiwan's democracy and sabotage elections in Western and democratic countries.
The annual report published by the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR) calls for individuals and organizations to pay more attention to this new type of warfare. It recommends establishing a comprehensive fact-checking system to prevent misinformation and the creation of chaos.
"The national security department should watch the Chinese government-backed, invisible troll army, which is conducting a 'smokeless war,' as it has intensified cognitive warfare into a 'gray zone conflict,' making it more difficult to distinguish the space between war and peace," according to the report.
The report analyzes the military and economic power of China, particularly focusing on its coronavirus propaganda campaign and the country's cognitive war tactics against Taiwan.
"The cognitive war aims to change the paradigm of thinking and eventually the behavior of the public, and that can be done through various official and unofficial channels, including Chinese, Taiwanese, and international news organizations, and other new media," the report states.
It noted China's mishandling of the pandemic diminished the effectiveness of its cognitive war, which was proven by Taiwan's 2020 election and the success of the independence-leaning DPP leader Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).
Its coronavirus propaganda, an effort dubbed "mask diplomacy," backfired as people realized that its supposed good Samaritan acts, donation of face masks and PPE (personal protective equipment), for example, turned out to be untrue.
As a result, Beijing's cognitive warfare tactics became more aggressive in 2020, the report said. This could be observed from the "wolf diplomacy" stances of Chinese diplomats and the relentless denigration waged by the government-backed Chinese internet trolls, also known as wumao (五毛) or the 50 cent party, on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, or TikTok.