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Defense Ministry battles against Chinese disinformation

Reporter Dennis Weng
Release time:2023/05/01 06:00
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 Defense Ministry battles against Chinese disinformation

HOUSTON (TVBS News) — The Taiwan Ministry of National Defense's revised draft of the All-out Defense Mobilization Readiness Act has sparked widespread concern among citizens and free speech advocates. 

While the ministry withdrew the proposed revisions within one week, the controversy reflected a profound concern in Taiwan.

 
 
Efforts to stop China's disinformation campaigns are commendable, but the proposed amendments raise serious concerns about the future of media freedom and political dissent in Taiwan. 

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government plans to expand the operative period of the Act from wartime to the so-called 'war preparation period' — which is very broadly defined.

This ambiguous definition would allow the government to control all media platforms and censor information. The revision could restrict the public's access to accurate and diverse perspectives and stifle public debate.
 
 
In Taiwan, the main concern is whether China's disinformation changed Taiwan's presidential electoral result. 

Taiwanese voters are not easily influenced by false information. This observation was demonstrated by Tsai's overwhelming win in 2020, indicating that voters relied on their personal experiences rather than newly acquired knowledge when casting their ballots.

Also, due to great distrust in Chinese media, much of the population is inoculated against pro-Chinese sentiment. 

This is not to say that Taiwan is immune from disinformation. Still, the island does need to find a tricky balance — upholding civil liberties while setting a bipartisan guard line to fight against dangers emanating from Chinese Communist Party-linked (CCP) groups.

Concerns that stricter regulation could violate freedom of speech serve as a warning to all democracies, as increasing anti-authoritarian sentiment may make democratic governments set up tighter media controls.

But it also increases the possibility that a democratic government abuses power and suppresses political opposition for political interests.
 
Taiwan's government must find a way to balance national security and freedom of speech to uphold Taiwan's values. Taiwan needs to learn this lesson, and so do other mature democracies.
 

Indeed, the government must prevent the spread of disinformation as it could destabilize society, but its solution should not be worse than the problem.

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Dennis Weng is a TVBS commentator and a political scientist at the St. Houston State University, Texas.

Taiwan Affairs

The Taiwan Briefing

#Taiwan#disinformation#Minsitry of National Defense#China#freedom of speech

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