Digital Civic Participation and Misinformation during the 2020 Taiwanese Presidential Election

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Digital Civic Participation and Misinformation during the 2020 Taiwanese Presidential Election


  • Ho-Chun Herbert Chang Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California, USA / Information Sciences Institute, University of Southern California, USA
  • Samar Haider Information Sciences Institute, University of Southern California, USA
  • Emilio Ferrara Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California, USA / Information Sciences Institute, University of Southern California, USA


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Abstract:  From fact-checking chatbots to community-maintained misinformation databases, Taiwan has emerged as a critical case-study for citizen participation in politics online. Due to Taiwan’s geopolitical history with China, the recent 2020 Taiwanese Presidential Election brought fierce levels of online engagement led by citizens from both sides of the strait. In this article, we study misinformation and digital participation on three platforms, namely Line, Twitter, and Taiwan’s Professional Technology Temple (PTT, Taiwan’s equivalent of Reddit). Each of these platforms presents a different facet of the elections. Results reveal that the greatest level of disagreement occurs in discussion about incumbent president Tsai. Chinese users demonstrate emergent coordination and selective discussion around topics like China, Hong Kong, and President Tsai, whereas topics like Covid-19 are avoided. We discover an imbalance of the political presence of Tsai on Twitter, which suggests partisan practices in disinformation regulation. The cases of Taiwan and China point toward a growing trend where regular citizens, enabled by new media, can both exacerbate and hinder the flow of misinformation. The study highlights an overlooked aspect of misinformation studies, beyond the veracity of information itself, that is the clash of ideologies, practices, and cultural history that matter to democratic ideals.

Keywords:  2020 Taiwanese Presidential Election; digital civic participation; foreign interference; misinformation; Taiwan

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v9i1.3405


© Ho-Chun Herbert Chang, Samar Haider, Emilio Ferrara. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.