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Digital minister shares how Taiwan battles 'infodemic'

Taiwan deploys 'humor over rumor' tactic to counter pandemic disinformation

Digital Minister Audrey Tang. (Taiwan Cabinet photo)

Digital Minister Audrey Tang. (Taiwan Cabinet photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan Digital Minister Audrey Tang (唐鳳) on Saturday (Jan. 30) joined an online conference held by the Brookings Institution to share how the country has managed to combat disinformation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at the virtual event, which focuses on the state of democracy in Asia, Tang discussed Taiwan's strategies to counter misinformation and disinformation campaigns with former U.S. security advisor Ryan Hass. She pointed out that nations are not only fighting an epidemic, but also an "infodemic."

Tang stressed the Taiwan government was able to limit fake news with its "fast, fair, and fun" response. She said the government has adopted a "humor over rumor" tactic to combat coronavirus misinformation with merry memes, which allow the public to laugh at nonfactual information.

To give an example, Tang mentioned there had previously been panic buying of toilet paper sparked by rumors that raw supplies were being exhausted to make face masks in May last year. She said Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), rather than angrily condemning the behavior, posted a picture of him wiggling his bottom and said, "We only have one pair of buttocks each."

Tang remarked that Taiwanese have become their own "media persons" due to the universality of the internet and that it is important for them to develop skills to identify fake news. She added the government has placed a stronger emphasis on improving the public's media literacy.