Taiwan’s Fact-Checking Ecosystem Makes Impression on International Experts

Taiwan’s Fact-Checking Ecosystem Makes Impression on International Experts

The Taiwan FactCheck Center (TFC) held the Forum on Fact-Checking in Asia 2023 in Taipei in early July and Taiwan’s own experiences were also highlighted, as one of the panels featured Taiwan’s fact-checking ecosystem. 

As Taiwan’s fact-checking and media literacy promoting teams shared their creative communication for enhancing digital security and media literacy, the international speakers found the work of Taiwan’s fact-checking groups interesting and inspiring. 

Carlos Hernández-Echevarría, assistant director of Maldita.es, said he was impressed by the energy, creativity, and solid strength of Taiwan’s fact-checking ecosystem. 

Chequeado Executive Director Pablo M. Fernandez and Aos Fatos Executive Director Tai Nalon both agreed that Taiwan’s teams’ ideas might serve as inspiration for the same problems that they’re addressing in Latin America. 

Africa Check Chief Editor Lee Mwiti said he was especially inspired by the team’s strategies targeting the elders.

Image: Ten members of the Taiwan fact-checking ecosystem shared their practices and effort in comparing misinformation in the Forum on Fact-checking in Asia 2023. (Photo/ Yuan-Bin Zhao) 

Approach 1: Fact-checking 

Taiwan FactCheck Center (TFC) itself was established in 2018 with the aim to enhance Taiwan’s informational ecosystem, provide trustworthy information, and combat mis- and disinformation. 

Media literacy is also its priority. TFC transformed itself into the Taiwan FactCheck Foundation in 2020, setting up an educational department in 2021. With Google.org’s US$ 1 million funding, the foundation has been undertaking a three-year project with other Taiwanese fact-checking partners on cultivating the country’s digital literacy.

Taiwan is a free, democratic, and vibrant society with various voices participating in discussions on various issues, said TFC editor-in-chief Summer Chen.

Image: Summer Chen, the Editor-in-Chief of Taiwan FactCheck Center. (Photo/ Yuan-Bin Zhao) 

On the path of fact-checking, TFC has often been labeled as partisan for its debunking work, but it will continue pursuing truth and insisting that public discussions must be based on facts, she stressed.

Asia Fact Check Lab is a platform set up by Radio Free Asia in October 2022 to provide viewers with accurate and unbiased analyses of Chinese-language statements and online content. 

Lab director Chih-te Lee said the lab has been focusing on the rumors about the region’s authoritarian governments and international relations on social media platforms and has released more than 95 reports since November 2022.

Approach 2: Face-to-face Interaction and Creative Teaching

As one of the TFC’s fact-checking partners, the National Association for the Promotion of Community Universities (NAPCU)  initiated its project, as part of the Taiwan media literacy project mentioned earlier, to include the instructors at the community colleges and encouraged them to develop ways to incorporate media literacy in their courses.

Image: Meng-PingTso from NAPCU. NAPCU promotes media literacy-integrated teaching to empower citizens  (Photo/ Yuan-Bin Zhao) 

Fake News Cleaner was formed in 2018 by a group of volunteers concerned with the harm misinformation could cause. They fight against misinformation by undertaking face-to-face communication with people on the street. 

By directly talking to people, the team could understand what the people are currently reading and how they receive information, and also warn them of the real harm fake news could incur, such as the money lost to scams and the health damage caused by believing spurious health information, the team member said.

Approach 3: Chatbot for Taiwan’s Mostly Used Instant Messaging App

MyGoPen, also a partner fact-checking group, was first established by a group of engineers and volunteers to introduce a one-on-one chatbot for senior users to help them identify disinformation. Charles Yeh, its editor-in-chief, said the app is now receiving more than 3,000 inquiries per day – during the pandemic, the number was more than 10,000. 

Another chatbot-based fact-checking platform is Cofacts, also initiated by engineers and supported by volunteers who investigate and provide fact-checked info sent by the chatbot in response to the user’s inquiries.

Image: Co-founded Cofacts in 2016, Bullion Lee organized a fact-checking community with over 2,000 contributors in Taiwan. (Photo/ Yuan-Bin Zhao) 

Auntie Meiyu is said to be the most widely used chatbot in Taiwan. Used in private chat groups, the chatbot was first developed in 2018 by a developer to tackle the disinformation sent by family elders in the family chat group, said the representative from Gogolook. 

The company seeks to use advanced AI technology to prevent communication fraud and has partnered with Auntie Meiyu since 2020. While debunking messages sent by family members could cause embarrassment, having Auntie Meiyu in the chat group can solve the problem. 

Another chatbot developed to help instant messaging app users detect scams and phishing websites was created by Trend Micro Inc. The company’s representative said users could add Dr. Message as their friend and send questionable messages to the doctor, who could respond with fact-checks. 

The team has linked its database to other fact-checking groups and public-sector sources to make the service more comprehensive and accurate.

Image: Paul Liu, the Director of Global Consumer Product Development and Marketing at Trend Micro, is running an anti-fraud tipline, Dr. Message.  (Photo/ Yuan-Bin Zhao) 

Approach 4: Research of Foreign Influence Operations

The Taiwan Information Environment Research Center (IORG) Co-director Chih-hao Yu said IORG studies the manipulation of information and how it is communicated, establishing a database for professionals to study and detect abnormal phenomena in the informational environment. 

IORG has also developed a methodology for “information credibility evaluation” to help people determine the credibility of the content of the messages they receive. Before judging whether a message is credible, Yu said, one should distinguish facts from opinions, verify the information source, and examine whether the inference is reasonable.

Image: Chihhao Yu, co-director of IORG, or Taiwan Information Environment Research Center. (Photo/ Yuan-Bin Zhao) 

Min-hsuan Wu, the CEO of Doublethink Lab that pledges “to strengthen democracy through enhancing digital defenses,” said the lab is not a fact-checking organization, but rather one that looks into the source of disinformation and tracks the manipulation of the information and analyzes its style of communication and narrative and how it affects the public and the media.

Some accounts publish posts only during working hours or share and like every single post released by the Chinese official media, for example, and these are signs that invite the lab to make deeper investigation, Wu said. 

Disinformation can create a non-existent event in the cyber world and provoke panic and discussion in the real world, which can, as we witnessed in the disinformation about Ukraine before the Russia-Ukraine war, rationalize violence, he said.


You can read the Chinese version of this article here.