The ubiquity of social media has altered the way people consume information, which in turn dramatically changed the way electoral campaigns are run. From the 2018 municipal elections to the 2020 general elections, Taiwan has witnessed the growing threat of disinformation to the citizens. It was observed that many malicious actors utilized social media to disseminate a huge amount of fake news, false information, and hate speech. These disinformation are like highly contagious viruses that will not only affect the people consuming them, but also make them secondary disseminators. We assess that:
1. Virus-like disinformation makes everyone on social media both victim and disseminator
Although public discussion is the cornerstone of a good democratic society, many attacks have used voter enthusiasm to spread on social media. We have observed that many of the voters who participated in the discussion turned out to be the source of dissemination.
2. Disinformation continues to evolve in tactics and quantity, as well as expanding its targets
The Taiwanese Central Election Commission (CEC) stated that the number of disinformation cases before the 2020 elections reached an unprecedented level. In addition to the evolution in quantity and tactics, we observed that the dissemination of disinformation did not stop even after the election, but instead shifted the target.
3. China continues to increase its influence
Apart from news agency promoting the Chinese policies, inauthentic accounts run by bot, and patriotic netizens (A.K.A little pink), China has stepped up its influence on social media platforms to shape narratives.
4. Information operations are outsourced, layer-by-layer
Before the elections, a number of marketing firms and new media were established to spread political messages. We discovered that some of them have connections with certain political parties, implying the layer-by-layer outsourcing of Information Operations by politically motivated actors.
From the perspective of security researchers, we integrated the Information Operations intercepted and investigated by TeamT5 over the past two years, hoping to contribute to the next democratic election.
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