As Xi just made a historical moment by getting his name written down in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China(PRC), he also announced up to 31 preferential policies to the island that he has always threated to invade, encouraging further engagement especially in commerce and the entertainment industry. Across the Pacific, the United States Senate passed the Taiwan Travel Act just a week ago, allowing officials to formally visit one another on higher levels. Meanwhile, the Taiwanese people have just taken a national day off on the 228 Memorial Day, due to the brutal massacre on February 28th, 1947.

There is, indeed, drama between the triangle of the US, China and Taiwan, politically, but the tech giant Facebook does not want to be left out in the play, mostly if there are potential economic interests in reach.

Photo of the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall,
CC0, free for commercial use, no attribution required

International media has covered [1], that 71 years after the 228 tragedy, several young protesters including former president of the National Taiwan University Student Association(NTUSA), Wei-Li Chou, and former student representative of the National Taiwan University Student Council(NTUSC), Min-Chiao Chang, splashed red paint on the tomb of Chiang Kai-shek, seen as pursuing radical actions while they urged the government and the general public’s attention to the transitional justice issue. They were all arrested after the action.

As martial law ended 30 years ago, Taiwan has made some incredible steps to ensure democracy through free elections and the ongoing movements to secure civil rights, including freedom of parading, demonstration and speech. However, the truth hidden under the ashes of history of the 228 event, encrypted files about governmental records, how the military orders were given, how many civilians were innocently killed by authorities and etc., are yet no where to be seen.

In National Taiwan University(NTU), one of the top universities in the country, students are known for participating in the progression of liberty, justice and democracy. Some graduates have even become nationwide political figures as they enter their mid-50s. As protests against authoritarianism continue to rise during the 1980s, students urged the authority to let go of regulations and inspections on the university, for the purpose of protecting academic freedom without absurd violations. NTUSA was then formed in 1988, copying from the tripartite system(Montesquieu’s separation of powers system), with NTUSC as its legislative branch, to fight for student rights.

The tradition of NTUSA and SC members participating actively in social movements still remains until today, which is why NTUSC members, also known as student representatives, held a press conference earlier this afternoon in front of the Fu Bell, paying respect to its former members for their actions in the protest against Chiang.[2] By passing a motion in the general assembly of NTUSC last night, they put out a statement on the Facebook fan page, calling out to the government to live up to its promise regarding transitional justice. It was not a coincidence that the Fu Bell in the campus of NTU was to memorize the principal Fu Ssu-nien during WWII who protected the students against authorities.

However, the statement was abruptly taken down due to its violation to Facebook’s community standards in merely a few hours.[3]

Not only was the statement banned, the entire fan page of NTUSC disappeared(recently recovered)[4]. Current Speaker of the SC, An-Lu Chou claimed that he was asked to log out from his Facebook account and delete the statement from the fan page, or the page would not be recovered.[5]

By Piotr VaGla Waglowski, http://www.vagla.pl (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

According to Facebook’s own statistics, Taiwan is one of the regions with the highest penetration rate with 18 million users active, which is nearly 80% of the island’s population. Taiwanese heavily rely on Facebook for their work and social life.

Nevertheless, several Taiwanese students and graduates have been blocked from posting or forced to suspend their Facebook accounts as they have been spreading news about the paint-splashing event, taking stands that aren’t in the favor of the PRC. They did a few tests and trials to see if Facebook is actually banning certain words or political views through the name of establishing community standards. [6] These infuriated users of Facebook soon suspected the change of standards may have something to do with Mark Zuckerberg’s long-known attempt to enter the mainland market. Some users claim they do not dare to post or share related articles anymore, as a result of self-censorship.

Taiwan, located in the center of the first island chain around the East Asian continental mainland coast, has proven itself through various challenges among economics and democracy. It has always been playing an important role in balancing the superpowers across the Pacific Ocean. It is not yet too late for us to realize there may be another aspect of threat coming from information technology, that might endanger the freedom of speech in Taiwan.

References:

[1] The New York Times reporting on the paint-splashing event occured on Feb 28, 2018. Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/world/asia/taiwan-chiang-kai-shek.html

[2] https://tw.news.appledaily.com/life/realtime/20180307/1310023/

[3] http://news.ltn.com.tw/news/politics/breakingnews/2358652

[4] NTUSC Facebook fan page. Link: https://www.facebook.com/NTUStudentCongress/

[5] https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1821681304529799&set=a.557250644306211.1073741825.100000638403910&type=3&theater

[6] https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=471368853265965&id=100011785640945

Notice:

I may be banned from Facebook as this article spreads out if unfortunate. But as the saying goes in the open source community, “patches welcome”, as in journalism, feel free to help proofread or even check the facts: Facebook IS endangering free speech in Taiwan, due to its eagerness to land across the Taiwan Strait for commercial benefits.

Please help and get the word out. Please take action. While you still can.

For further updates or references, contact christinesfkao at gmail dot com.


Update on March 11:

I’ve written another story, “Censorship concerns rose in Taiwan as transitional justice advocates being banned from Facebook”, by adding depth in the discussion of Facebook’s banning mechanism, how it may affect the Taiwan society, and the history behind the paint-splashing incident.

This is an issue intertwined with both #FreeSpeech and #TransitionalJustice.

Please share the articles to your friends overseas to spread the word out if you’re concerned about any of the two.

I sincerely appreciate your help.

Christine's Worklog

讀書寫字的養成之路

Christine Shao-Fang Kao

Written by

♉️ 1995. 🎓 Undergrad student at National Taiwan University. EE major with minors in sociology and psychology.

Christine's Worklog

讀書寫字的養成之路

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