Children’s storyteller Billion Lee is on the front line in the battle against the online disinformation she worries is undermining Taiwan’s democracy, one of the most vibrant in Asia.
As a co-founder of Cofacts, a collaborative platform, the 29-year-old helps people verify videos and stories they share on LINE, the Japanese instant messaging application that has some 21 million monthly users – both companies and individuals – on the self-ruled island.
“Taiwanese are unclear of the difference between fact and opinion, that’s not in our education,” Lee said.
Set up in 2016, Cofacts is designed as a chatbot and receives approximately 250 questionable messages for verification each week.
Each story or video is checked against the platform’s ever-growing database of similar articles or videos that have already been fact-checked, as well as online tools before the outcome is messaged back to the sender.
Most of the fact-check editors are volunteers who collaborate on each query.
Concerns about disinformation, particularly from mainland China, have grown since President Tsai Ing-wen first took power in 2016 and China, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory, stepped up pressure on her government. She was returned this month for a second term in a landslide.
Ming-Yeh Rawnsley, a research associate at SOAS’s Centre of Taiwan Studies in London and founding editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Taiwan Studies, said that it was relatively easy to spread fake news in Taiwan because of the popularity of social media platforms and messaging apps like LINE with their group chat features.