In 2020, Taiwan concluded its presidential election without mishap, and endured the COVID-19 pandemic, becoming one of the rare safe havens in the world to enjoy a sense of normalcy. In the face of major political and everyday challenges, Taiwan not only adopted multifaceted response measures, but government and private organizations worked together to combat disinformation through passive prevention and active education measures to ensure that the people understood their rights, which is crucial in protecting oneself from misinformation. It is under such an environment that this report documents Taiwan’s efforts to fight disinformation, and can be modeled upon domestically and internationally.
This report begins with the first chapter summarizing how this report came about. The second chapter offers background on Taiwan’s information ecosystem, to understand the social context in which disinformation grows. Chapters three through five consists of the main text of the report, introducing in turn the efforts and results by the Taiwanese government, online platforms and civil societies in combating disinformation. Lastly, Chapter six analyzes the uniqueness of the Taiwan Model, while also making suggestions for public policies and best practices.
Concerning the government’s efforts, we organized the four aspects of the government’s policies in preventing disinformation: “identify, debunk, contain and punish.” The corresponding strategies include improving citizens’ media literacy, building efficient clarification mechanisms, furthering cooperation across media platforms, and pursuing accountability for behaviors in violation of law, etc. Government agencies have developed horizontal communication, timely clarification mechanisms. Taken together, information transparency has resulted in positive results, as most evident in major events.
Major online platform businesses each have their own method of operation principles and community guidelines, in response to society’s elevated concerns on information quality. In mid-2019, five of the major online platforms businesses (Facebook, Google, LINE, Yahoo Taiwan and PTT) released a Taiwan Code of Practice on Disinformation, declaring their commitment to combat disinformation. Subsequently they also proposed response plans during the elections. Traditional media had previously developed a collective self-discipline system, however, it has picked up efforts to catch up on fact-checking practices.
In a vibrant and diverse society, many civil societies have participated in building a line of defense in fighting disinformation together. Civil societies serve multiple functions, including advocating, executing, empowering and supervising. In addition to bringing awareness to the government and online platform businesses to the disinformation phenomenon, they are also involved in fact-checking and promoting media literacy education, while monitoring the behavior of government and online platforms.
Overall, we believe the key characteristic and spirit of the Taiwan Model in combating disinformation is the collaboration between government and private organizations. In recent years, the Taiwan government, civil societies, online platform businesses, and even traditional media, have each developed a response plan of their own, while also having worked together, and having learned from one another. The collaboration between public and private is without a top-down relationship, having developed a flexible partnership plan in response to real-life changes instead. Due to the combined accumulation of individual adaptability and established trust within each other, Taiwan was able to communicate efficiently and quickly form an action plan during the presidential election and COVID-19 outbreak.
Therefore, the Taiwan Model offers an important lesson: the trust, conversations, collaboration and empowerment between society’s multi stakeholders are the best weapons that a democratic society possesses in preventing and combating disinformation. However, several aspects of this model are worth pondering and improving upon. This report proposes suggestions at the end, for all of society to consider and communicate further, to enhance future actions.
We propose the following:
- Government agencies should review laws and enforcement measures in caution to ensure that they align with human rights standards, and proactively propose policies that strengthen the media framework and ecosystem.
- Online platform businesses should continue to actualize platform responsibilities and safeguard information quality on platforms, while also providing transparent and effective accountability measures.
- Civil societies should put cross-sector collaboration in good use, to improve fact-checking resources, and strive for all sides to collectively promote digital literacy education.
- Traditional media still shoulders heavy responsibilities, with the expectations of finding a balance between market competition and social responsibilities, rebuilding its professional ethics to uphold democracy.