In recent years, the phenomenon of misinformation online has gained much attention, and has seriously endangered the quality of public discourse about important events occurring around the world. As a result, users of popular social media platforms need to develop a high degree of digital literacy to help them think critically and identify information that is not based on fact.
Acknowledging its responsibility as a major tech firm with a global reach, Facebook has dedicated itself to enhancing digital literacy and internet safety knowledge and skills among internet users. Facebook has sought to achieve this goal in the Asia-Pacific through its “We Think Digital” initiative. “We Think Digital” is aimed at elevating the level of digital literacy of the overall community, particularly in areas such as critical thinking, empathy, and understanding of digital footprints. This improves digital discourse among users, and allows users to identify and reject misinformation and keep themselves safe online.
In Taiwan, Facebook has implemented this program through extensive partnerships with civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, and government and education authorities at the central and local levels. Facebook and partners devise strategies to bring useful and educational workshops and events to the people of Taiwan, cultivating a more responsible and informed community of digital citizens. The “We Think Digital” program has had a far-reaching impact so far, with over 50,000 “citizens” participating in more than 110 events during the last 12 months.
To emphasize the central role of education in working toward this goal, the program brought to Taiwan the “We Think Digital Mobile Classroom,” which traveled to seven cities across the island. Combining online and offline resources, as well as games and interactive activities, the Mobile Classroom provided a means to help Taiwanese citizens learn the skills and tools necessary to be responsible digital citizens.
In order to combat misinformation, Facebook initiated the Third-Party Fact-Checking Program with the International Fact Checking Network (IFCN) in 2016. The company has carried out the plan in Taiwan by partnering with the Taiwan FactCheck Center last June, and a second fact-checking partner – local startup MyGoPen – was added in March this year. Both organizations have been certified by the IFCN, and must follow the IFCN’s Code of Principles to independently review posts on Facebook, including photos and videos, and evaluate the accuracy of their content.
Discussing the recent partnerships, Facebook’s public policy manager for Taiwan, Max Chen, said: “Facebook is committed to curbing the spread of misinformation. We are very excited that Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program is going strong in Taiwan. We also look forward to future opportunities for collaboration with other local fact-checking organizations. Doing so will help us build a more informed community.”
To create a healthy news ecosystem and support quality journalism, Facebook launched the Asia Pacific News Literacy Conference in 2017. This annual event allows people to have meaningful conversations about recent news events and to be informed and to be connected to each other. The conference in June last year – the first to be held in Taiwan – brought together publishers, third-party organizations, and academics from National Chengchi University to discuss quality journalism in Taiwan.
Facebook is also working with cross-sectoral partners from civic and engineering backgrounds to find innovative solutions to issues related to misinformation, including how it spreads and why it causes harm. In November last year, Facebook hosted a hackathon in Taipei and invited college students, platform developers, and journalists to participate. Together with Facebook experts, the attendees brainstormed ideas and sought innovative solutions to the issue of online misinformation. Also joining the event was Minister without Portfolio Audrey Tang, who shared with attendees the approach Taiwan’s government is taking to halt the spread of false information.
Facebook has also taken steps to prevent abuse of the platform. For example, during the 2020 Taiwan presidential election, Facebook launched an ad transparency tool and policies for ads involving social issues, elections, and politics to help ensure the transparency and security of the election.
While cutting down on misinformation is an important part of keeping the online community safe, protecting younger users from online harassment and bullying is also a key element in strengthening cybersecurity for large social media platforms. Teaming up with Taiwanese child-protection non-profit iWIN last May, Facebook established a cyberbullying prevention center in Taiwan and is promoting it to teenagers, parents, and teachers through the Facebook Safety Center. Facebook and iWIN have also partnered in launching the Chinese-language version of the Digital Literacy Library, aimed at helping young people develop knowledge and critical thinking skills related to cybersecurity and digital citizenship.
In the future, Facebook will continue to work with its partners in Taiwan and elsewhere to enhance digital literacy so that the general public can have access to the global community unrestricted by time and space, yet be safe and knowledgeable in their use of the internet. As a sign of Facebook’s long-term commitment to this goal, “We Think Digital” will soon kick off another round of online education programs.