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AI and Disinformation in Taiwan's 2024 Election

28/05/2024

This is a summary of the report commissioned by Thomson on AI Disinformation Attacks during Taiwans 2024 Presidential Elections, written by Professor Chen-ling Hung from National Taiwan University.

In the 2024 Taiwanese presidential election, the Democratic Progressive Party won an unprecedented third term with candidate Lai Ching-te securing 40% of votes.

Despite being targeted by foreign disinformation, Taiwan successfully combatted these attacks, showcasing resilience against external interference.

This report examines the role of generative AI in spreading disinformation during the election, and the efforts by citizen groups and newsrooms to debunk it.

It analyses the themes and impacts of AI-generated disinformation on Taiwan's internal dynamics and regional relations. The response of Taiwanese media and civil organisations to Chinese disinformation is also discussed.

Finally, the report offers conclusions and recommendations for newsrooms and fact-checking organisations, highlighting the importance of media literacy and potential drawbacks of current strategies in the broader news-public information ecosystem.

Blurring fact and fiction In the 2024 election, disinformation was analysed through second-hand data from news, government documents, and citizen organisations like the Taiwan FactCheck Center, IORG, and Taiwan AI Labs. These groups worked to counter Chinese intervention and AI-generated disinformation. Disinformation was categorised into AI-fabricated content, misleading narratives, and coordinated behaviour.

The AI-generated fake audio and video that appeared in this election mainly targeted politicians and their private lives.

The major themes of misleading narratives include government policies, cross-strait relations, and suspicion of the US. Coordinated behaviours were observed in the behaviour of information, sending mainly a large number of fake accounts systematically creating or disseminating disinformation.

We found that AI's role in disinformation involved blurring fact and fiction, generating vast amounts of false information, and creating sophisticated deepfakes, challenging traditional fact-checking and necessitating new solutions in digital literacy and technology. While not significantly impacting immediate public discourse or political decisions, disinformation influenced long-term discussions on national identity and global geopolitics.

AI's role in disinformation involved blurring fact and fiction, generating vast amounts of false information, and creating sophisticated deepfakes.

Chen-ling Hung, Professor, Graduate Institute of Journalism, National Taiwan University.

Combating disinformation We also examined how Taiwanese media combated disinformation, which involved interviews with five major news organisations: Taiwan Public Television Service (PTS), Central News Agency (CNA), Radio Taiwan International (RTI), Formosa Television (FTV) and TVBS Media.

The public and government-subsidised media like PTS, CNA, and RTI demonstrated a strong commitment to authentic news, using advanced technology and various strategies influenced by different political affiliations.

However, commercial media like FTV and TVBS, in spite of their efforts in maintaining journalistic standards and representing diverse political perspectives, struggled more with disinformation due to political biases and profit motives. These channels, especially their online counterparts, faced challenges in verification processes, vulnerability to AI-generated disinformation, and pressures to align with or oppose certain narratives. This highlights the complex nature of combating disinformation and emphasises the need for collective action and collaboration among media, government, technology platforms, and the public.

Strengthening internal fact-checking and establishing comprehensive frameworks for information verification and education are crucial for media independence, credibility, and democratic development.

Legal measures, platform collaboration, and civil society efforts This report concludes that Taiwan combated disinformation during the election through legal measures, platform collaboration and civil society efforts.

Despite these efforts, challenges remain in addressing disinformation on digital platforms and social media. The final remarks include recommendations for multi-stakeholders:

Proactive Government Action: Enhance legislation against spreading rumors and fake videos, and develop mechanisms to counter infiltration activities funded by foreign forces.

Accountability for Digital and Traditional Media: Implement fact-checking obligations for mainstream media and close loopholes in online platform regulation.

Strengthening Civil Society: Increase collaboration across sectors to improve the ability of civic groups to counter AI disinformation.

Comprehensive Research: Study the circulation and impact of disinformation on national identity and international perspectives, formulating strategies to mitigate its influence.

The report highlights also the need for continued vigilance and adaptive strategies to protect a nation's democracy and development from disinformation attacks.

-- Play

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The debate Professor Chen-Ling Hung is joined by other experts to discuss the impact of disinformation on the Taiwan election and others in 2024.

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