Taiwan has again accused China’s military of waging new cyber attacks against the island, as citizens prepare to vote this Saturday for a new mayor of Taipei and other heads of regional governments.
Taiwan’s cybersecurity agency has warned of disinformation and fear-mongering on the Internet, with cyber units of the People’s Liberation Army expected to flood social media sites with fake news to sow conflict and sway sentiment against political parties that oppose Beijing.
Beijing is expected to intensify its propaganda and psychological operations against the independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen administration.
The island’s national security agency has stressed that local media outlets who live-stream the voting could be vulnerable to attacks by China, as editors and citizens tend to copy and paste information without verifying it.
One case in focus is Han Kuo-yu, a candidate fielded by the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang who is a candidate to be the mayor in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city.
Han’s approval ratings have spiked in the past month, but the island’s cybersecurity watchdog has found many suspicious posts supporting him – uploaded in nations such as Venezuela, Ukraine, Russia and Mexico.
“The phenomenal rise of Han from cyberspace to the real world is a case in point for what the ‘web brigades’ could achieve by manipulating public opinion,” the Taipei Times cited a source as saying.
Stealth, deception and bribes appear to be China’s favored strategy in manipulating the elections, the source said, revealing that pro-Beijing groups make regular payments to Taiwanese pundits, political operatives and commentators to spread views in favor of Beijing and KMT candidates.
But Han’s team has dismissed suggestions that Beijing could be lending a helping hand and called related probes by national security agencies Tsai’s “political prosecution” to prop up his rival from the Democratic Progressive Party.