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Taiwan military think tank warns of sabotage by China's social media army

A Taiwan government-funded military think tank has warned of the danger posed by Chinese internet trolls, describing it as a new type of warfare that could jeopardize Taiwan's democracy and sabotage elections in Western and democratic countries, the website taiwantimes.com reported.

The annual report published by Taiwan’s Institute for National Defence and Security Research (INDSR) calls for individuals and organisations to pay more attention to this new type of warfare. It recommends establishing a comprehensive fact-checking system to prevent misinformation and the creation of chaos.

"The national security department should watch the Chinese government-backed, invisible troll army, which is conducting a 'smokeless war,' as it has intensified cognitive warfare into a 'gray zone conflict,' making it more difficult to distinguish the space between war and peace," according to the report.

The report analyses the military and economic power of China and pays particular attention to its coronavirus propaganda campaign and the country's cognitive war tactics against Taiwan.

"The cognitive war aims to change the paradigm of thinking and eventually the behaviour of the public, and that can be done through various official and unofficial channels, including Chinese, Taiwanese and international news organizations, and other new media," the report states.

It noted the People's Republic of China and its mishandling of the pandemic diminished the effectiveness of its cognitive war… Its coronavirus propaganda, an effort dubbed "mask diplomacy," backfired as people realized that its supposed good Samaritan acts, donation of face masks and PPE (personal protective equipment), for example, turned out to be untrue.

As a result, the PRC's cognitive warfare tactics became more aggressive in 2020, the report said. This could be observed from the "wolf diplomacy" stances of Chinese diplomats and the relentless denigration waged by the government-backed Chinese internet trolls, also known as wumao or the 50 cent party, on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, or TikTok..