TFC weekly monitoring report, May 8-14, 2023

TFC weekly monitoring report, May 8-14, 2023

The Taiwan FactCheck Center (TFC) has observed three types of rumors worth noting in the past week:

Posts misinterpreted natural phenomena

Over the weekend, a video claiming to show "baby birds feeding their mother bird" went viral, taking advantage of the Mother's Day atmosphere. However, the video actually showed a baby cuckoo being "brood-parasitic" in a vinous-throated parrotbill's nest, with the larger bird in the video being the nestling, not the mother. Read our fact-check here.

In another recent fact-check, we also debunk a piece of misinformation misinterpreting natural phenomena. According to the rumor, Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Pingtung experienced high temperatures in early May due to hot air rising from underground magma chambers, allegedly indicating an impending strong earthquake. 

However, experts clarified that there are no magma chambers in the area, and the recent heatwave was primarily caused by intense sunlight and southwesterly winds. The rumor can be dismissed as baseless pseudo-science.

False information targeted Taiwan’s defense

TFC also debunked a rumor related to defense weapons. The rumor claimed to reveal classified military information without providing any credible sources. Additionally, the defense information mentioned in the rumor was found to be inaccurate, according to military experts.

Screenshot of the online rumor.

For example, one claim in the rumor stated that the F-35 jets purchased by Japan and South Korea required authorization from the United States, including Link 16 access to operate. However, it was clarified that Link 16 is a feature used for the exchange of coordinate and tactical information during exercises or wartime, and it is not used to fly an F-35 aircraft.

Read our fact-check.

Another erroneous claim in the rumor suggested that Taiwan's F-16 jets had their GPS systems locked, preventing them from flying to the Philippines, Okinawa, or Japan. However, aviation historians pointed out that every country has an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), and aircraft from other nations do not enter another country's ADIZ without a valid reason. Additionally, aircraft can still fly without GPS, making the claims in the rumor unfounded. 

The Trap of Sympathy

There have been two videos circulating online in the past week that depict acts of violence. One video shows a toddler being violently thrown, while the other claims to show "migrant workers beating an elderly." However, upon verification, the child abuse video showed actually a domestic violence incident in Shaanxi, China, in August 2020, and the other video was from a domestic violence incident in Indonesia in 2019. Neither video was filmed in Taiwan, and they are not recent events.

The screenshot of the Facebook post with a video of a toddler being violently thrown

These videos have the potential to evoke sympathy and may lead to online doxing and cyberbullying as a form of retaliation or exacerbating hostility towards migrant workers.

When encountering such video content, it is important to verify it before sharing. One can utilize the TFC’s fact-checking chatbot to verify the content or conduct a reverse image search by taking a screenshot of the video to determine if it is related to recent events.

You can read the Chinese version of our weekly monitoring report here.