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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Smear campaigns and fake accounts

Smear campaigns and fake accounts

In the current digitalized world, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between genuine concerns raised democratically by citizens and politically motivated talking points pushed forth by those with ulterior motives.

There was a time when online users could calmly articulate a political position and others would likewise respond in a thoughtful manner. These days, respectful disagreements and civil online debates are rare. The descent toward a populist online culture is no particular group’s fault. Social media platforms constantly flood their users with information far beyond the limits of a sane person’s attention span. In this ecosystem, sensationalist positions are naturally the ones that get the most spotlight.

Nonetheless, there are often concentrated efforts by presumptuous individuals like former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) employee Hsu Che-pin (許哲賓) — who was involved in faking death threats along with online personality Lin Yu-hong (林裕紘) to garner public support during the egg scandal — to manufacture crisis and sow distrust. Even though they lacked any convincing evidence, KMT legislators previously held a news conference accusing the DPP of involvement in sending the threats.

A recent legal investigation revealed that Hsu possessed more than 1,000 Facebook accounts. There is no reasonable explanation why a normal citizen needs to possess so many accounts. Hsu’s ties to the KMT and other pan-blue factions must be taken seriously under the ongoing investigation. This is likely the tip of the iceberg.

What other disinformation has Hsu spread online? Were his numerous accounts used to promote any particular political campaigns or to attack opponents? Has any group or foreign entity paid Hsu for his services?

The KMT’s response to the scandal has been disappointing. It seems to be distancing itself from Hsu and hoping that the situation would eventually resolve itself. Any transparent investigation into Hsu during his employment as a KMT staffer has been utterly lacking. Are Taiwanese supposed to believe that Hsu’s fake death threats were an isolated incident and that he had never used his numerous fake accounts before the incident?

Any political party that directly or indirectly manipulates voters online through fake accounts should be condemned. These manipulations are not only detrimental to a healthy functioning society, but also toxic to an individual’s mind.

US novelist John Steinbeck once wrote: “The free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.”

If Taiwan truly wishes to accommodate free and exploring minds, political parties must lead by example and refrain from using underhanded political tactics. The Internet as frontier for the free exchange of ideas is something truly worth protecting. Furthermore, Taiwanese must make all parties realize the grave political costs of orchestrating online misinformation campaigns.

 

Linus Chiou is a part-time writer based in Kaohsiung.


Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2023/10/27



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Newsflash

In her New Year speech yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said her wish was to win the Jan. 14 presidential election and promised to turn Taiwan into a country where solidarity and justice prevail.

“My fellow countrymen, I wish you a happy new year on the first day of 2012. I would also like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere pledge to make Taiwan a country of solidarity and justice,” she said at a flag-raising ceremony in Greater Tainan.