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

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses Taiwan's approach to regulating social media platforms, particularly TikTok, as a means of combating disinformation and foreign influence. It highlights Taiwan's early ban of TikTok on government devices, the ruling party's refusal to use the platform, and the broader efforts to address online threats across various social media platforms.

🙋 Q&A

[01] Taiwan's Approach to Regulating Social Media

1. What are the key elements of Taiwan's approach to regulating social media platforms?

  • Taiwan has built an arsenal of defenses against disinformation and foreign influence, including a deep network of independent fact-checking organizations and a government ministry dedicated to digital affairs.
  • Taiwan was early to label TikTok a national security threat and banned it from official devices in 2019, along with two other Chinese short-video apps.
  • Taiwan's strategy is to regulate every social media platform, not just TikTok, as disinformation reaches Taiwanese internet users on various platforms.
  • Legislators in Taiwan are considering measures that tackle internet threats, such as fraud, scams, and cybercrime, broadly enough to apply to all existing social media platforms, including TikTok, as well as future platforms.

2. How does Taiwan's approach differ from the U.S. approach to regulating TikTok?

  • Unlike the U.S. Congress, which is considering a potential ban of TikTok, the Taiwanese government is not contemplating legislation that could end in a ban of the platform.
  • Taiwan's strategy is to address the broader issue of disinformation and foreign influence across all social media platforms, rather than targeting a specific platform like TikTok.

[02] TikTok's Presence and Influence in Taiwan

1. What is the status of TikTok's popularity and usage in Taiwan?

  • TikTok is popular in Taiwan, used by a quarter of the island's 23 million residents.
  • Taiwanese users of TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese internet giant ByteDance, are served the kind of pro-China content that the U.S. Congress cited as a reason it passed a law that could result in a ban of TikTok in America.

2. How has Taiwan's government and organizations responded to the potential risks of TikTok?

  • The Taiwanese government issued an executive order banning TikTok, along with two other Chinese short-video apps, from official devices in 2019.
  • The ruling political party in Taiwan does not use TikTok, even during campaign season, over concerns about its data collection.
  • During Taiwan's January 2023 election, multiple organizations and government agencies worked to ensure the conversation on TikTok stuck to the facts, with TikTok removing almost 1,500 videos for violating its policies on misinformation and election integrity.

3. What are the concerns about the potential spread of pro-China views on TikTok in Taiwan?

  • While Taiwan's ruling political party did not use TikTok to campaign, its opponents, who are viewed with less antagonism by Beijing, did, which some worry made it easier for pro-China views to spread on the platform.
  • Some experts believe that Taiwan's approach to regulating social media is not robust enough to confront the persistent threat of foreign influence online, as the "enemy" is not just a cross-strait issue but a domestic one.
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