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Watch Out for the Storm over the Tsai Gov’t’s Ferocious Anti-Fake News Moves

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 Watch Out for the Storm over the Tsai Gov’t’s Ferocious Anti-Fake News Moves

United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan)
 
September 20, 2018

 Translation of an Excerpt
 
"Fake news" has recently become a hard spot in the heart of the Tsai government; like a fish bone in one’s throat, it has to be removed to be at ease. Since President Tsai declared that fake news was a "national security issue," all ministries have mounted battle stations, seeking to deploy actions. First, the National Security Bureau directed the Bureau of Investigation and five other intelligence and security agencies to begin implementing an ad hoc communication security project, strengthening the collection of disputed information in media outlets and online social media. Then the National Communications Commission (NCC) followed up, warning broadcasting and television media outlets that if they wantonly reported without verification, a fine of NT$2 million may be imposed. These moves have churned up a widely-spread witch-like storm of "news censorship."
 
Not only that, but other ministries have also followed suit, joining in the activity embellished as safeguarding "national security." For example, upon the prodding of the National Security Bureau, the Justice Ministry is studying revisions to the "Communications Protection and Monitoring Act," easing the restrictions on wire-tapping and subpoenaing communications records, taking the authority from the “hands of judges” back to the "hands of prosecutors." This move is tantamount to turning from "judicial control to executive control," granting the executive branch stronger authority for investigation and interrogation. In addition, Yeh Yi-jin, a DPP legislator, introduced a draft amendment to the National Security Act, aiming at including the Internet arena into the scope of the National Security category, hoping to enhance the strength of control over fake news and fake information.
 
In a few short days, various departments of the government have mobilized so many, all-encompassing activities, literally dazzling to the eyes and startling to the heart. The message it has revealed can be induced as follows: First, "fighting fake news" has become a joint action that covers national security, legislative, various departments of the Cabinet, and the ruling party, coming like a stampede; various news media and even private sector online social media are swept into it. Second, in order to expand the effects of this "anti-fake news" wave, the various departments have even gone to the extent of lowering the original standards in implementing the law, changing it to executive, putting convenience as a priority consideration, entirely oblivious to the threat that this move would pose to freedom of speech. Third, the DPP, when it was in the opposition, had consistently maintained a contrary stance toward the "Communications Protection and Monitoring Act" and the "National Security Act," singing loudly a high tune for safeguarding freedom of speech; now that it is in power, it, however, believes that speech cannot be left uncontrolled. Does the speed with which moral standards are being downgraded veritably decay without a bottom line?
 
In fact, in a seminar titled “Dialogue with the Youth,” Tsai Ing-wen talked about whether we should restrict malicious attacks on the Internet. She said that if we used legislation to regulate, she worried that "excessive legislation" would create harm to freedom of speech. Especially, Taiwan had come a long way from the era of martial law rule, and the public had great expectations for freedom of speech, and all the more cherished freedom of speech. These words are still ringing in our ears; has Tsai Ing-wen forgotten? Or, did she really want to lead the people to relive the life under martial law rule?
 
Amid these flip-flopping of standards, has the DPP fundamentally a core belief? Between the contrast of the giant for freedom of speech and the dwarf for action, what figure would the entire government be torn and twisted into? What place would freedom of speech for the people be relegated in the future?

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