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EU reports on China's information manipulation targeting Taiwan

02/07/2024 07:58 PM
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Photo taken from Pixabay for illustrative purposes only.
Photo taken from Pixabay for illustrative purposes only.

Brussels, Feb. 6 (CNA) The European Union released its second Report on Foreign Information Manipulation and Interference (FIMI) Threats at the end of January, which stated that Ukraine was the most targeted country but also found the Asia Pacific, including Taiwan, to be under similar attacks.

The EU's European External Action Service (EEAS) published the report on Jan. 23, based on 750 investigated FIMI incidents between December 1, 2022 and November 30, 2023.

According to the report, FIMI "describes a mostly non-illegal pattern of behavior that threatens or has the potential to negatively impact values, procedures and political processes. Such activity is manipulative in character, conducted in an intentional and coordinated manner, by state or non-state actors, including their proxies inside and outside of their own territory."

In the Asia-Pacific, a map in the report shows that Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Australia have also been found to have been targeted.

When asked about the attacks in the Asia-Pacific region, on which the report did not elaborate, the EEAS responded in an email to CNA saying that a total of 12 cases targeting the region were recorded during the period covered, but also stressed that the EEAS's "mandate and priorities are primarily focused on attacks against the EU coming from Russia."

In the email the EEAS listed several cases targeting Taiwan.

One was a 300-page (Chinese-language) e-book slandering President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) promoted via social media platform X, websites and press release distribution services, in the weeks leading up to the presidential election on January 13.

Another was an article denigrating Taiwan-U.S. relations posted by the Chinese state-controlled Global Times and "laundered by Chinese FIMI infosphere Facebook pages," according to the EEAS. The article alleged that the U.S. was using Taiwan to weaken China and that 30 political groups -- mostly unspecified except the pro-China Labor Party and Labor Rights Association -- in Taiwan protested against Tsai's U.S. visit.

There was also the case of Chinese state-affiliated media outlets China Daily and CGTN, within an hour of each other on Aug. 12, publishing articles depicting China's view on the history of Taiwan and the alleged legal grounds for China's claim on Taiwan, said the EEAS in the email.

In Japan, the FIMI focused on the Fukushima wastewater release, "portraying it as irresponsible and criticizing Western media for 'under-covering' the topic."

The team found the campaign featured an English-language music video with Chinese subtitles widely shared across official Chinese channels, discrediting the Japanese nuclear wastewater disposal.

The FIMI targeting Indonesia highlighted alleged U.S. meddling, with an article in September claiming the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the CIA were preparing a color revolution in the country published by the self-claimed far-left website Mintpress News, which later got amplified.

Meanwhile, the report stated that "AI usage in FIMI is minimal," a finding that is at odds with what Taiwan AI Lab has found in its recent research on Taiwan's presidential and legislative elections, which indicated generative AI has already been widely used.

The EEAS, responding to CNA's question about the gap, said they found most attacks in the 750 cases identified in the report were still conducted with low-cost, traditional manipulation techniques, but the team is "well aware of the wide use of AI content during the latest Taiwanese elections and...can expect similar AI-charged FIMI in 2024."

The targets of FIMI attacks are global, EEAS said. Ukraine was the country most targeted, with 160 cases recorded, while the U.S. was targeted in 58 cases, followed by Poland with 33, Germany 31 and France 25.

Europe is expecting several elections this year, including the European Parliament election scheduled to take place in June.

By Tien Hsi-ju and Alison Hsiao Enditem/AW

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