Taiwan, on China’s Doorstep, Is Dealing With TikTok Its Own Way

Taiwan, on China’s Doorstep, Is Dealing With TikTok Its Own Way

As it’s within the United States, TikTok is well-liked in Taiwan, utilized by 1 / 4 of the island’s 23 million residents.

People submit movies of themselves looking for fashionable garments, dressing up as online game characters and enjoying pranks on their roommates. Influencers share their choreographed dances and debate whether or not the sticky rice dumplings are higher in Taiwan’s north or south.

Taiwanese customers of TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese web big ByteDance, are additionally served the sort of pro-China content material that the U.S. Congress cited as a cause it handed a legislation that would lead to a ban of TikTok in America.

One current instance is a video exhibiting a Republican congressman, Rob Wittman of Virginia, stoking fears {that a} vote for the ruling party in Taiwan’s January election would immediate a flood of American weapons to help the island democracy in a doable battle with China, which claims it as a part of its territory. The video was flagged as pretend by a fact-checking group, and TikTok took it down.

About 80 miles from China’s coast, Taiwan is especially uncovered to the potential for TikTok’s getting used as a supply of geopolitical propaganda. Taiwan has been bombarded with digital disinformation for many years, a lot of it traced again to China.

But not like Congress, the federal government in Taiwan is just not considering laws that would finish in a ban of TikTok.

Officials in Taiwan say the controversy over TikTok is only one battle in a warfare in opposition to disinformation and overseas affect that the nation has already been preventing for years.

Taiwan has constructed an arsenal of defenses, together with a deep community of impartial fact-checking organizations. There is a authorities ministry devoted to digital affairs.

And Taiwan was early to label TikTok a nationwide safety menace. The authorities issued an government order banning it from official gadgets in 2019, together with two different Chinese apps that play quick movies: Douyin, which can be owned by ByteDance, and Xiaohongshu.

The political party that has ruled Taiwan for the previous eight years — and is about to take action for an additional 4 when Lai Ching-te is inaugurated as president on Monday — doesn’t use the app, even throughout marketing campaign season, over issues about its information assortment.

Here in Taiwan, lawmakers say, they don’t have the posh of pondering of TikTok as the one menace. Disinformation reaches Taiwanese web customers on each kind of social media, from chat rooms to quick movies.

“If you say you’re concentrating on China, folks will ask why we’re not additionally speaking about others,” mentioned Puma Shen, a lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. “That’s why our technique must be that we’re regulating each social media platform, not simply TikTok,” mentioned Mr. Shen, previously the pinnacle of Doublethink Lab, a disinformation analysis group in Taipei.

Taiwan has a deeply ingrained tradition of free political speech, having taken the primary steps to democracy solely about three many years in the past. Debate thrives throughout an enormous number of social media platforms, together with on Taiwanese on-line boards, equivalent to Dcard and Professional Technology Temple.

But essentially the most extensively used platforms have overseas house owners, and TikTok is just not the one one. YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, operated by publicly traded U.S. corporations, are much more well-liked than TikTok in Taiwan. And Line, a messaging app owned by a Japanese subsidiary of the South Korean web big Naver, is usually used within the nation as a information supply and method to make funds.

Legislators in Taiwan are contemplating measures that deal with web threats — fraud, scams and cybercrime — broadly sufficient to use to all these current social media platforms, together with TikTok, in addition to no matter would possibly change them sooner or later.

One proposal launched this month would require influential platforms that characteristic internet advertising, which successfully encompasses all of them, to register a authorized consultant in Taiwan. Officials mentioned these restrictions weren’t geared toward TikTok.

“We presently assume that TikTok is a product that endangers nationwide data safety, however this designation doesn’t goal TikTok particularly,” mentioned Lee Huai-jen, the departing spokesman for the Ministry of Digital Affairs. The ministry slapped the identical classification on different Chinese short-video apps, together with Douyin and Xiaohongshu, which have massive audiences in China.

In March, executives from TikTok’s Singapore workplace met with authorities and political officers in Taiwan. The firm talked with officers to “search their suggestions on our platform and for us to element the numerous methods during which we maintain our group protected,” a TikTok spokeswoman mentioned. She added that the app’s information assortment insurance policies had been in step with business practices.

When Taiwan went to the polls in January, a number of organizations and authorities businesses had been on name to ensure the dialog on TikTok caught to the info.

TikTok communicated with Taiwan’s election fee, police company and inside ministry to flag probably unlawful content material. TikTok mentioned it had eliminated nearly 1,500 movies for violating its insurance policies on misinformation and election integrity, and took down a community of 21 accounts that had been amplifying pro-China narratives. It additionally labored with a neighborhood fact-checking group to tag election-related movies with assets about misinformation.

But the day after the election, the web site of the Taiwan Fact Check Center, a nongovernmental group that works with tech corporations together with Google and Meta, was overwhelmed with hundreds of tourists, in response to its chief government, Eve Chiu.

Many had seen movies on TikTok and YouTube exhibiting volunteer ballot staff making errors within the vote rely and questioned the outcomes of the election, Ms. Chiu mentioned. Some of those movies had been actual, she added. The drawback was that viewers had been primed to assume the dimensions of error was a lot bigger than it was.

While Taiwan’s ruling political party didn’t use TikTok to marketing campaign, its opponents, who’re considered with much less antagonism by Beijing, did.

But some fear that this made it simpler for pro-China views to unfold on TikTok, and that Taiwan’s strategy to regulating social media is just not strong sufficient to confront the persistent menace of overseas affect on-line.

“In the U.S., the goal could be very clear — this one platform — however in Taiwan, we don’t know the place the enemy is,” Ms. Chiu mentioned. “It’s not only a cross-strait problem, however a home one.”


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