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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