NBR Special Report no. 93
Taiwan’s Response to Disinformation
A Model for Coordination to Counter a Complicated Threat
This report examines efforts by the Taiwan government and civil society to counter disinformation and argues that Taiwan demonstrates unique strengths but still faces significant challenges that demand solutions.
The Taiwan government established a team in the executive branch to oversee policies for countering disinformation and coordinate with other agencies. This team promotes a four-facet framework focused on identification, debunking, combat, and punishment. Three main characteristics can be observed from Taiwan’s model to counter disinformation: (1) there is not a partnership between the society and government but instead civil society distances itself from the government, (2) civil society and government nonetheless operate in mutually enabling ways, and (3) the framework created by the team allows for a swift, coordinated response. Apart from these characteristics, Taiwan also faces several challenges, including (1) strong resistance to regulations and transparency from social media platforms, (2) the lack of capacity of relevant agencies (e.g., law enforcement and the judiciary) to deal with disinformation, and (3) the urgent need for methodologies to evaluate the scale, dynamics, and impacts of circulating disinformation and the effectiveness of countermeasures.
- For the enforcement of punishment-based regulations, checks and balances by the judicial branch remain crucial to prevent infringement on freedom of expression.
- To concretely evaluate the effectiveness of fact-checking, more data from platforms should be accessible to researchers and fact-checking groups. Further studies on the populations most susceptible to disinformation should also be conducted.
- Governmental and civil-society fact-checking organizations can reinforce each other while maintaining distance. To this end, the government could emphasize and promote the work of civil society while ensuring data transparency, creating guidelines, and making policy information accessible to the public.
Shih-Shiuan Kao is a legal researcher at Doublethink Lab, a civil-society organization in Taiwan investigating disinformation and information operations in order to safeguard democracy globally.