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Remarks by Minister Jaushieh Joseph Wu at GCTF Workshop: Defending Democracy through Media Literacy

  • Data Source:Public Diplomacy Coordination Council
  • Date:2018-10-18

Oct. 18, 2018
Good morning! I want to welcome everyone to Taiwan, as well as acknowledge several special guests:

1. Deputy Assistant Secretary Busby
2. Professor Farley
3. My good friend AIT Director Christensen
As well as the dignitaries from Taiwan:
1. Speaker Su, Chairman of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy
2. Minister Tang, popularly known as Taiwan's Digital Minister
3. Deputy Minister Hsu
4. and President Liao of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.

Thank you all for coming to this important event.  
Ever since I was in the National Security Council in 2016 I've had numerous discussions about the Global Cooperation Training Framework. I've participated in meetings that have talked about how good the GCTF is, and how many people it has benefitted. I have become an ardent supporter of this program. And I was pleased to significantly increase its budget, so that we can support more training sessions on issues of common interest.

The funny thing is: throughout this process - all these meetings, discussions, and speeches praising the GCTF - I've actually never had the opportunity to participate in an actual GCTF event. And so this is my very first time to be at a GCTF event to talk about this concrete example of Taiwan's longstanding cooperation with the United States. I could not be more pleased at this opportunity. And I want to thank the AIT, the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, as well as my hardworking colleagues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for putting this event together.

We're gathered today to talk about a topic that is at the center of today's political discourse. It's an issue that is critical if our societies are to separate fact from fiction, and information from disinformation. Media literacy is the answer to a major challenge posed to all democracies - that is the ever more sophisticated efforts by non-democratic actors to disrupt and degrade our democratic processes. But it is also an opportunity. As Thomas Jefferson once said, a well-informed electorate is a prerequisite to democracy. And similarly, if through media literacy, we are able to build a society that is more educated and better informed, we end up with a democracy that is stronger and more resilient.

In many senses, all of you are in the right place to talk about the issue of media literacy. Taiwan is on the frontlines when it comes to coordinated attacks of disinformation, designed to sow discord in society and disrupt our way of life. In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this is something we deal with on a daily basis. The topics of disinformation range from potential switches in diplomatic relations to issues with very real national security implications. For every falsehood we discredit, more come to take their place. This makes my job not only challenging. And I know this is an issue also prevalent across many government agencies in Taiwan and around the world.

When I was at the Legislature yesterday, one line of reasoning I heard was whether our efforts to fight disinformation were concealed attempts to discredit tough questions for the government. Well, I want to make clear that there is a clear difference between the two. Criticism of the government can take many shapes and forms. And it is our job - as an administration rooted in our fight for democracy - to ensure that this freedom is not only respected, but also enshrined as part of our society. But when this criticism is based on fake information and falsehoods, when it is based on unsourced and anonymous material, and when it comes coordinated from foreign actors that hold a vested interest in degrading our political system, that is when it becomes our responsibility to counter it.

Let me give you an example of this. In late May, there were widespread media reports that the foreign minister of one of our diplomatic allies was in Beijing about to establish diplomatic ties. We were concerned and immediately sent our ambassador to that country to verify. This ambassador sent very convincing evidence a few hours later: a picture of himself and the foreign minister is their capital. And as it turned out, this rumor originated from a social media account based in China's Hebei Province.

This example points to the fact that with the advent of new technology, disinformation and falsehoods are spreading faster than ever - in many cases faster than we can clarify. While the Executive Yuan has set up a real-time news clarification webpage, collecting 820 reports this year - this undoubtedly represents just the tip of the iceberg. And it's not just government working to fact check information, it's also civil society. Organizations like the Taiwan FactCheck Center are also working to verify news and information collected online and via social media. But in the long-term, the economics of disinformation dictate a need for a better approach. While China may pay netizens 50 cents to post fake information, it costs us much more than that to rebut it. And so, this approach must be centered not on government, but the very people that produce and consume information: journalists, academia, civil society, and citizens.

Taiwan is often termed as a beacon of democracy for the region. This was acknowledged by Vice President Pence recently when he referred to Taiwan's embrace of democracy. And so, given the importance of defending democracy, our most fundamental value, Taiwan must take the lead on issues like media literacy. On this issue, we seek to share information, contribute our strengths, and work more closely with our like-minded partners and countries from around the region.

This workshop is a step in the right direction. And it will be one step in the many to come. Thank you all for being here and I hope that you have a productive program. Thank you.