WHO Is Blocking Commenters From Even Mentioning Taiwan On Its Facebook Page

from the streisand-effect dept

A few months back we highlighted the insane lengths the WHO was going to in an effort to silence Taiwan, despite that country's extraordinarily successful efforts to combat COVID-19. Yes, yes, everyone understands the geopolitical mess in that the Chinese government refuses to recognize that Taiwan is an independent country (which everyone who lives in reality knows) and that various organizations and governments have to pretend otherwise to keep the Chinese government happy.

But come on. People are dying. Denying the independent existence of Taiwan to continue playing pretend is silly beyond all belief.

And yet here we are. The WHO has apparently decided to play by China's rules and refuses to acknowledge Taiwan. And now they've taken it up a notch. Journalist William Yang noticed that when he tried to post any comment on a certain WHO post that included the word "Taiwan" the comment failed.

I tried it myself and, indeed, if my comment mentioned Taiwan, it would be outlined in red with a red exclamation point next to it, and a message saying "unable to post comment."

It was already known that Facebook offers page administrators the ability to automatically hide comments based on a keyword list, but many observers were surprised to see that these comments couldn't even be made at all.

Facebook eventually confirmed to Yang that there are, in fact, tools that allows page owners to completely block certain keywords:

This is so incredibly stupid on so many levels. Again, we're in the midst of a pandemic where much of the world is looking to the WHO for at least some semblance of guidance. And Taiwan appears to be one of a very small number of countries that has actually done a good job. But the WHO won't even let people mention the name in social media comments so as not to frustrate the thin skinned Chinese government? That's absolutely ridiculous.

After getting more and more criticism over it, the WHO finally came out with a statement, claiming it did this to... wait for it... prevent cyberattacks. Because now, apparently, mentioning "Taiwan" is a "cyberattack."

"During the World Health Assembly, WHO faces an onslaught of cyberattacks by online activists on a number of controversial issues, using keywords such as 'Taiwan' and 'China'," it said.

That hindered its ability to moderate conversations for people who came to their pages to discuss health issues, it said, and when that happened "our social media team applies content filters", the WHO added.

"This is a practical measure that does not reflect a value judgment or any policy of the World Health Organization. The aim is to enable our users to avoid being spammed through cyberattacks, including from bots, and to find a balanced way to keep information and conversation flowing."

This is... garbage. It's not a cyberattack. People wanted to point out, quite reasonably, that WHO's continued policy of pretending Taiwan doesn't exist, refusing to let it attend the World Health Assembly, and ignoring the successful approach to COVID that it has fashioned, was problematic for an organization claiming to want to help stop the pandemic. And claiming this was a cyberattack and that it might somehow be "disruptive" didn't actually work very well. The comment section became flooded with other ways of making the point clear:

In the end, the WHO removed the filter. Of course, that only happened after drawing much more attention to WHO's denial of Taiwan's existence and its capitulation to the demands of the Chinese government to ignore one of the few governments that got COVID under control. Nice going, WHO.

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Filed Under: china, comments, covid-19, streisand effect, suppression, taiwan
Companies: facebook, who

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  1. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 13 Nov 2020 @ 2:19am

    Re: Re:

    "...pulling the US out of the WHO as a form of protest of their handling of China's input was, to some degree, a good thing."


    Like it or not the WHO is, when it comes to health, still not just the undisputed world leader. It's the only international organ monitoring global pandemics with the full cooperation of almost every nation on earth. The US pulling out means exactly one thing - abdication.

    Unless the US wants to create and lead a new international body competing with the WHO - fat chance of that - the one and only outcome is that to the rest of the world this now means China is stepping up to the plate because the US couldn't be arsed to keep having the back of the organization whose massive labor saw the end of smallpox and is considered the reason for child mortality dropping 53% globally since the year 2000.

    "When the loudest whiner is China it will appear that WHO is in Jinping's pocket."

    And ironically the real reason for that is because after the US helped set the WHO up it's gradually decided the world as a whole is "none of our business" which means a lot when China keeps sending its best and brightest to work in that organization while the US views it as a political scrapyard to send failed flunkies to.

    "But the world needs to stop kowtowing to China and their efforts to expand their leader's sphere of evil influence by any means."

    Ah, imagine how this shit would have gone down in those good old days in the Cold War if the US move had been "We're not gonna be part of NATO any more" or "We're withdrawing from the UN security council". McCarthy would have been tracking down "bourgoisie capitalist pig-dogs" rather than "pinko commies".

    You can bet your ass that aside from trying to erase Taiwan from existence, China will do a very good job in the WHO in actually fighting disease. With no other global power willing to step up to the plate. The US abdicating from the WHO means Chinas voice now stands unopposed in yet another global forum.

    Seriously, it's getting to the point where it no longer matters if Trump was paid off by Putin and Emperor Xi, because these last four years has seen China and Russia benefited in ways which was unthinkable under any previous president, Rep or Dem.

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