Taiwan is no stranger to misinformation. According to a 2019 report by Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem), the country is the most targeted liberal democracy for the spread of false information by foreign governments. The Taiwanese government has been proven to be able to act quickly, regardless of its origin, debunking false claims within two hours and responding in advance of nightly news so that true information garners greater attention.

Taiwan’s “humor over rumor” strategy appeared particularly effective regarding the response to Covid-19 misinformation. Fact-checking by non-state actors further aids combating misinformation, such as the bot Cofacts, created by a g0v, a “decentralized civic tech community,” and the nonprofit organization Taiwan FactCheck Center (TFC) collaborating with Facebook to label misinformation.

But other efforts at responding to misinformation are more divisive. The Social Order Maintenance Act (SOMA) punishes those “spreading rumors in a way that is sufficient to undermine public order and peace” with fines of NT$30,000 or three days in jail. In 2018, DPP legislator Chiu Chih-wei proposed amending SOMA to allow for similar punishments for publishing misinformation online, making them potentially apply to all internet users. In December of 2019, the DPP-controlled Legislative Yuan passed the Anti-Infiltration Act aimed at limiting the influence of foreign actors. In both cases, critics worry about the impact of the law on free speech. They also claim that both major parties have engaged in efforts to spread false or misleading information online.

Public trust is crucial to any effort against online misinformation. For the government, it’s important to ensure the public doesn’t see their efforts as overreach or infringing on free speech. Also, any well-intended efforts by government and private sector entities will be undermined by a public unwilling to engage.

To identify public support for combating misinformation, I conducted a national web survey of 640 Taiwanese via PollcracyLab on May 18-20.

First, I asked respondents to evaluate the statement, “social media companies have a right to remove posts on their platform.” Here I found that they tilted against the idea, both overall and among supporters of the two major parties, with DPP supporters registering the highest support (37.91%) and KMT supporters the highest opposition (53.45%).

In reality, social media companies are legally entitled to remove posts on their platforms. Respondents may be reading the question incorrectly, evaluating whether these companies should remove posts. But they also may be concerned if posts consistent with their own views would be a target or that removing posts violates freedom of information and speech.


Next, I randomly assigned respondents to one of the two prompts about who should take action against false information and the balancing of this with freedom of information. Respondents were asked which of the following statements they agreed the most:

a) “(Version 1: The government; Version 2: Social media companies) should take steps to restrict false information online, even if it limits freedom of information.”

b) “Freedom of information should be protected, even if it means false information can be published.”


More than half of respondents supported government action (65.96%), but even more believed social media companies should take action (78.03%).

There’s little difference among DPP supporters regarding who should take action (84.06% vs. 86.90%). They believed the burden fell equally on both the government and social media companies. But among KMT supporters, less than half (44.26%) supported government action, while the majority considered actions by social media companies necessary (76.36%).

The gap may be capturing ideological differences on government overreach, but the results may simply show that KMT supporters distrust a DPP-led government. This argument is reinforced by the partisan deviation in the survey on the topic about satisfaction with Taiwan’s democracy (59.48% of DPP supporters and 25.86% of KMT supporters claimed to be satisfied). Unsurprisingly, those who believed social media companies had the right to remove posts supported more strongly their actions against false information.

In the survey, I also asked about views on misinformation in general, using statements originally used in work by Bode and Vraga. On most topics, there’s little difference between the views of DPP and KMT supporters, except that the former were more than twice as likely as the latter to agree with the statement, “I like it when people correct others on social media” (47.71% vs. 18.96%). In particular, over three-quarters of both groups stated that people should respond when they see misinformation on social media and that it is everyone’s responsibility to address the problem. Meanwhile, over 40% of respondents were concerned that responding to misinformation leads to confusion or encourages trolling, and that corrections alone may not be enough to resolve the issue.


Overall, the results reflect a public concerned about misinformation, but with less consistency on what to do about it. While there is no perfect solution to misinformation and content moderation, the survey has identified one crucial element in this fight: the use of fact-checks. Unlike in the United States, the use of fact-checks does not appear politically polarized in Taiwan, with over 70% of DPP and KMT supporters claiming to have used them. Despite the possibility of social desirability, the results showed that the public is aware of the existence of false information and feels the need to evaluate content they consume online.


Taiwan’s efforts against misinformation require a multifaceted approach, which engages the public without seeming burdensome or biased. Asking users to open articles before sharing them is an example to do so. An unobtrusive measure like this pushes users to consider the veracity of claims shared without fueling concerns that post removal violates expectations of free speech and information.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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