Brussels, The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday acknowledged using content filters on its social media accounts, but denied having any political motivation, after internet users complained that the group was censoring messages in support of Taiwan.
As the World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO’s decision-making body, got underway in Geneva this week, Taiwanese internet users reported on Thursday that comments containing the words “Taiwan” and “China” were being blocked from the group’s Facebook page.
In response, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the world health body for violating the principle of neutrality and for using “censorship” to “erase Taiwan.”
Though the filters were eventually removed, the WHO defended its use on Friday as “a practical measure” for dealing with an onslaught of “internet trolling, spamming and fake accounts producing malicious content.”
In a statement to CNA, WHO spokesperson Tarik Jašarević said that such activities, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, hindered the group’s ability to moderate conversations among people who visit the page to seek health guidance.
“To address these challenges, WHO’s social media team uses the same tools all online moderators do, including content filters, for WHO’s accounts,” Jašarević said.
“WHO’s content moderation activities are a practical measure. They do not reflect any judgment or policy position of WHO on any specific issue,” he said.
The incident this week is the latest in a series of spats between the two sides, which have grown in intensity amid the COVID-19 pandemic, due to Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO.
The WHO, a United Nations body, adheres to the one China principle as the U.N. does and does not recognize Taiwan as a country.
In April, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus accused Taiwanese internet users of being behind a campaign of racially-motivated attacks against him.
Taiwan, for its part, has argued that its exclusion prevents it from joining in multilateral efforts against the pandemic, and has sought to promote its public health contributions, including donations of face masks and medical equipment, under the slogan “Taiwan Can Help.”
Taiwan, officially named the Republic of China, was expelled from the WHO in 1972 and prevented from attending WHA meetings after the People’s Republic of China gained U.N. recognition and took its seat.
However, Taiwan was able to participate in WHA events as an observer from 2009-2016 under the designation “Chinese Taipei” when relations between Beijing and Taipei were good under the previous ruling party Kuomintang, which had accepted the compromise concept that the two sides are a part of one China, with each side free to interpret what that means.
Since 2017, however, Taiwan has been excluded from the U.N.-affiliated body, due to opposition from China, which has objected to Taiwan’s new ruling Democratic Progressive Party rejecting that concept.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel