Taipei, April 19 (CNA) A fact-checking center was announced in Taiwan on Thursday by two local non-profit organizations with the aim of combating the spread of fake news and providing the public with reliable information.
The Taiwan Fact Checking Center is backed by media watch group Taiwan Media Watch, in collaboration with the Association for Quality Journalism, an organization that funds investigative and in-depth reporting.
"The issue of fake news has attracted global attention," Hu Yuan-hui (胡元輝), head of the Association for Quality Journalism and a professor at National Chung Cheng University's Department of Communication, said at a press conference to announce the establishment of the center.
He said a survey conducted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in over 30 countries last year showed that only 24 percent of respondents believed social media did a good job of helping them separate fact from fiction, and only 40 percent said the mainstream media did a good job in that regard.
"This shows that the general public are anxious and want to know if the information they receive is correct," he said.
The long-term solution to the fake news problem is to enhance media literacy among readers, but there are things that can be done now, such as asking social media platforms to take responsibility for the content they share and setting up fact-checking centers, he said.
While there are 149 active fact-checking outlets around the world, including 22 in Asia, there are none in Taiwan, Hu said, urging the general public and local media to join the effort.
The Taiwan Fact Checking Center, which will begin operations in July, will focus on checking major news stories or rumors on the internet and in the media that impact the public interest, as well as news or information flagged by social media platforms, Hu said.
It will be modeled on such international fact-checking websites as PolitiFact, FactCheck.org and Snopes, and will follow strict fact-checking procedures, including having at least three fact-checkers verify each story before a final report is published, he said.
The four-member team of fact-checkers will be led by Huang Chao-hui (黃兆徽), an award-winning journalist and part-time assistant professor at National Taiwan University's Graduate Institute of Journalism, he said.
All of the information and sources used during the fact-checking process will be listed in the final report and corrections will be made if new evidence comes to light, Hu said, adding that the fact-checkers will also interview relevant experts or consult with the center's own team of experts.
The center has already raised about NT$2 million (US$68,084) from businesses and groups, including CTBC Bank Co., and plans to raise another NT$2 million through crowdfunding, according to Hu.
Representatives from Taiwan Media Watch and the Association for Quality Journalism urged tech giants such as Facebook and Google to work with the center by providing their users with fact-checking results.
Even though some countries have proposed regulating fake news through legislation, the promoters of the center said they are opposed to any government involvement.
"A lot of people say free speech in Taiwan is too free, but freedom of expression is the most precious thing about Taiwan," Taiwan Media Watch Chairman Lai Ting-ming (賴鼎銘) said.
"We do not want the government to be involved. I believe NGOs and the media should work together (to combat fake news)," he added.
Jane Wu (吳典蓉), editor-in-chief of Storm Media who also attended the press conference, said fake news is powerful and spreads quickly because it often deliberately play on the fears and anger of readers.
She agreed that the best ways to combat such falsehoods is not through government regulation, but through supervision by professional groups and by media outlets exercising self-discipline.