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Bid to curb 'fake news' may impact freedom of speech: professor

2018/12/09 21:36:27

Image taken from Pixabay

Taipei, Dec. 9 (CNA) A professor at National Taiwan University of Arts (NTUA) said Sunday that free speech on the internet may be affected if the Taiwan government decides to revise a draft of a law to impose fines on websites that post fake news.

Lai Hsiang-wai (賴祥蔚), a professor at NTUA's Department of Radio and Television, was commenting on a statement posted on the Cabinet's website earlier in the day, detailing a revision to a draft of a digital communications bill.

According to the Cabinet's statement, the new revision would allow for fines against social media platforms that fail to remove false information.

In an attempt to tackle the spread of fake news, the Cabinet said, the revision effectively allows individuals to report social media websites found carrying false information.

The draft bill is currently under review in the Legislative Yuan, the Cabinet said.

According to a report in the Liberty Times on Sunday, the revision was made in the wake of the Nov. 24 local government elections amid allegations of a flood of false information on the internet during and after the campaign period.

However, Professor Lai said such a revision may lead to websites automatically removing information or comments without fact checking, if a report is made, which will limit the freedom of speech.

"The truth should be allowed to prevail in a free speech environment," Lai said, adding that the government should let readers judge for themselves what is factual in addition to providing them with correct information.

The government should intervene only in cases where there is enough evidence to prove that the false information originated overseas and poses a threat to national security, Lai said.

Meanwhile, Hung Yao-nan (洪耀南), chairman of Taiwan Asian Network for Free Elections, said that all democratic countries are facing the problem of false information.

He suggested that social media websites such as Facebook and YouTube reveal the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of users if there is a need to determine whether the false information originated overseas.

(By Chiang Ming-yen and William Yen)