Taiwan presidential candidates welcome Google campaign advert ban

Taipei (AFP) –


Taiwan's presidential candidates on Thursday welcomed a temporary ban imposed by Google on campaign ads, intended to combat disinformation in the run-up to next year's elections.

The island will elect a new president and parliament on January 11, and authorities say they are facing growing interference from China.

Beijing has ramped up Taiwan's isolation ever since President Tsai Ing-wen took office three years ago, because her party refuses to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of "one China".

Tsai is seeking a second term against Han Kuo-yu, a challenger who favours warmer ties with Beijing.

Social media giants including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been under pressure to prevent their platforms from being misused for political purposes since the 2016 US election.

Google said it hopes to make positive changes with its efforts to improve digital literacy in Taiwan, but has decided to ban campaign ads from Friday until January 17 since "changes take time and the elections are just around the corner".

The ban would apply to all candidates running for office and their political parties, it said in a statement.

Tsai's campaign spokesman on Thursday welcomed Google's move, expressing appreciation that international platforms "are actively scrutinising and deleting suspicious accounts that spread disinformation and meddle in democratic operations".

Han's office said it respected the decision.

Facebook recently announced that it would introduce strict criteria for political ads in Taiwan, requiring those who want to advertise about elections and politics to confirm their identity and location, and disclose who was responsible for the ad.