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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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  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 12 Nov 2020 @ 9:59am

    Of course.
    Somebody left the WHO leaving a vacuum for China to take over the leadership role.

    And it's not just the WHO either.

    Abdication has it's consequences.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2020 @ 10:06am

      Re:

      Even before our human garbage in chief pulled the US out of the WHO that organization was already capitulating to China's demands. The US did not "lead" the WHO in any meaningful sense as it was. The WHO seems most interested in making everybody happy (an impossibility) by doing everything everyone asks of them. When the loudest whiner is China it will appear that WHO is in Jinping's pocket.

      Though I disagree with how it was done, 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. In the end it was totally ineffectual and was only done out of spite for political reasons. But the world needs to stop kowtowing to China and their efforts to expand their leader's sphere of evil influence by any means.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Koby (profile), 12 Nov 2020 @ 10:12am

        Re: Re:

        It isn't ineffectual necessarily. First. the WHO has started to rightfully lose credibility. Second, if enough people abandon a non-credible organization, then it opens the possibility for a different organization to take its place.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 13 Nov 2020 @ 2:33am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "First. the WHO has started to rightfully lose credibility."

          The WHO is still the only international pandemic watchdog around with full access to most of the globe. It has lost credibility in minor ways, yes...

          ...the US, meanwhile, has lost EVERY credibility among every ally it had, demonstrating that enough americans are such raging assholes they'd elect Hitler or Chairman Mao if he rode in on an elephant wearing a red hat. It is now globally known you can not rely, long-term, on the united states abiding by treaties, obligations, or just, you know, not actively betraying the people who have fought and bled along US troops for decades.

          "...it opens the possibility for a different organization to take its place."

          The US today couldn't start a Boy Scout union and expect the people it has insulted, let down, or betrayed in the last few years to even attend.
          And to everyone else, except possibly Taiwan, the WHO still does a decent job at it's core mission - monitoring and fighting for improving the global health situation.

          Honestly, Koby, are you putting the same blinders on here that you apply whenever free speech is mentioned? The US betrayed the Kurds - long-time allies who've been alongside US troops in every ME conflict to a hostile power; Abdicated from the WHO; Unilaterally withdrew from treaties left and right, showing the US has no word good beyond the current president; and fucked NATO up the ass while insulting just about every other key member.

          You've got no credibility left. Zero. What little international goodwill Obama managed to scrounge up after GWB's spending spree is gone.

          The US image internationally today is that of an alcoholic slugger who just beat his oldest friends for no reason. You might have to let him sit at the table because he's big but no one's going to want to talk to him - or trust him again, no matter how much he claims he's sober these days.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • 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."

        How?

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      icon
      urza9814 (profile), 12 Nov 2020 @ 10:36am

      Re:

      Stop fuckin trolling. That's basically the only thing the Human Cheeto ever got right! WHO's absurd denial of the existence of Taiwan started long before the US left. Stop inventing "facts" just because you think they'll support your "team". This shit is not a goddamn sport, there are peoples' fucking lives at stake...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 13 Nov 2020 @ 3:12am

        Re: Re:

        "That's basically the only thing the Human Cheeto ever got right! WHO's absurd denial of the existence of Taiwan started long before the US left."

        Well, no. WHO is still that sole international organ doing work on global health. Yeah, it's politicized courtesy of China always sending its best and brightest to represent the Empire while the US keeps viewing a WHO job as the garbage dump where you send failed has-beens.

        You think China would have that much pull with the WHO if the US hadn't largely abandoned it's leadership role there completely?

        And there is no alternative to the WHO. And the US today doesn't have the international credibility or goodwill to set up an international junior's soccer club. In fact, reputation-wise China now leads the US in credibility. Hell, even Russia isn't falling behind in that race any longer. Say what you like about Putin but he knows better than to - publicly - betray his staunchest allies at the drop of a hat. Even republicans were repulsed about the betrayal of the kurds, the only ally the US has which has put troops in harms way alongside americans in just about every ME conflict.

        But let's assume that, by some miracle, The US makes the walk of shame to it's once allies and begs forgiveness for what it did in a drunken stupor. Let's assume the US somehow manages to set up a global competitor to the WHO. To have any meaning that competitor needs full access to China where oh so many influenza strains comes from. China will be happy to cooperate. Just stop mentioning Taiwan. Or try to do that job without access to 1/6th of the global population.

        Walking out of the WHO doesn't mean the US gained credibility. It means it lost what little guidance it had on that organization. And China will be happy to assume the reigns and do a damn good job of it too...as long as no one mentions Taiwan, of course.

        So the cheeto-in-chief didn't even get that one right either.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sumgai (profile), 12 Nov 2020 @ 10:18am

    Did anyone consider trying "Formosa", instead of Taiwan?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 12 Nov 2020 @ 10:24am

    First rule of lying guys...

    'If you're going to lie at least try to make it believable.'

    (Or if you're someone like Trump just lie so often that it's all but impossible for people to keep up)

    While I wouldn't put it past china to initiate a cyber-attack on the WHO in spiteful retaliation for the group acknowledging that Taiwan exists come on, 'other people mentioning the country counting as a cyber attack' is a lie you'd expect from freakin' Trump it's so laughably pathetic.

    Just admit that china acts like a petulant child when people say things that conflict with The Official Narrative and you don't want to trigger another of their tantrums already, while it may be humiliating it would still be vastly better for your reputation and credibility than repeatedly getting caught in blatantly obvious lies which just show how much china has you on a leash anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2020 @ 10:26am

    Shit like this is why people believe that the WHO was deliberately helping downplaying the severity and risks of Covid early on while it was still apparently confined to China. It gets rather difficult to argue that they aren't doing China's bidding at the expense of everyone else, when they are apparently attempting to do China's bidding as far as Taiwan is concerned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2020 @ 10:48am

    The current issue of Private Eye in the UK has a piece about Taiwan's Covid response written by a medical doctor.
    It is impressive on a number of counts - after the SARS outbreaks they put checks and controls in place. When Dr Li Wenliang first raised the alarm, the Taiwanese government started the procedures and locked the island down (before Wuhan went into lockdown!) They quarantine everyone coming in from anywhere for 2 weeks and track locals via mobile phones to make sure they stick to it - all in quarantine are paid a daily stipend and the fine for breaking the stay at home order is 1000 times the stipend...
    They are currently enjoying a completely normal way of life despite being a normal crowded Asian country (24M people - 17th most dense population) with extended family all living close to each other - 573 cases and 7 deaths ... in total!!
    One big difference - the population has a lot of trust in the Government as they work with people to define the rules - imagine that politicians listening to the citizens??

    I also live on an island but we have had no meaningful restrictions at ports and airports, a useless track and trace system that is still being ironed out and we are currently in a second lockdown - we have just topped 50,000 deaths and 1.2M confirmed cases after ignoring the warnings for nearly 3 months. Large areas of the US are still in denial so I hate to think what the numbers will be when this all settles

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2020 @ 11:27am

    Did china offer to hold back the cyberattacks for them?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 12 Nov 2020 @ 12:45pm

    so much fun I could (fillin the blank)

    "the population has a lot of trust in the Government as they work with people to define the rules"
    WOW, a gov with a 2 way street.

    I really wonder why China declares they OWN all of the Asian continent.
    I still wonder why we consider China a Communist gov. when they dont act that way.
    Love it wehn the gov. thinks the info goes 1 way, and not the other.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ANANONANA, 12 Nov 2020 @ 1:50pm

    Call out the people with power in this entire affair

    Do we have to go over all this again?

    The WHO is in no way exceptional in this regard. Due to China Taiwan has been tiptoed around by all major international organizations China is a member in. None of the other countries really fancy taking that on and batting for Taiwan. 14 nations have full diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the US is not one of them neither are any of the EU5 or Russia for that matter.

    What are the officials in the organizations in question supposed to do? Go out on a limb and aggravate one of their major backers with no one willing to have their back over the issue?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ANANONANA, 12 Nov 2020 @ 1:57pm

      Re: Call out the people with power in this entire affair

      I should add that it is good on Taiwan to explot their strong response to Covid to push their broader diplomatic aims. Given the heft of china they need to use every lever thay can.

      That said, I would prefer if people would take on and see the full breadth of the problem rather than singling out the WHO and kneecapping international cooperation on health matters. Especially when things like the eradication of Polio is at stake.

      Of course John Oliver has a LWT segment on point to all this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g0Jh4h5E1E

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 12 Nov 2020 @ 2:01pm

      Re: Call out the people with power in this entire affair

      Only reasons, that I see in this international Corp world, NOT to deal with ROC/taiwan, would have to be MONEY.

      Lets scare the world and make the IDEAL of Money rules all, NOT. Lets get rid of it. LETS NOT be the #1 over using CHEAP goods at expensive prices Nation.
      Or is it because IF we dont, China will stop using OUR cheap goods like LUMBER, that we over PRICE to them?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2020 @ 11:18am

    Taiwan WHO?
    (I had to
    toodaloo)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    kbro (profile), 14 Nov 2020 @ 7:51am

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