With money and effort, a shared sense of truth can be reclaimed.
If you read news stories or social media posts in Taiwan last December, you may have learned some startling “facts.” HIV has spread rapidly in Taiwan since the government legalized same-sex marriage, one story claimed. President Tsai Ing-wen forged her doctoral degree, another rumor went. Despite outrageous lies like these in the run-up to January’s presidential election, Tsai won in a landslide. Fake news failed.
Hard as it may be to imagine against the backdrop of conspiracy theories about child trafficking or supposed vaccination dangers dominating Facebook and YouTube for months, Taiwan should give everyone hope that we can live in a normal news environment again. The West’s response to disinformation so far has largely been reactive. It could do far better by following the Taiwanese model and taking an active stance against it. As a Washington Post headline reads, “[D]isinformation is ascendant. Taiwan shows how we can defeat it.”
Taiwan takes a whole-of-society approach to fighting disinformation. Its civic technology community works with social media companies, like the island’s popular messaging service Line, to identify, debunk, and downrank viral conspiracy theories on social media platforms. When someone comes across a news story that sounds fishy, they can send it to the popular chatbot Cofacts, where teams of volunteers then rapidly research the claim to determine its validity. The independent Taiwan FactCheck Center maintains an online repository of disproven conspiracy theories.