President of Taiwan, who helped legalise same-sex marriage, hit with wave of homophobic fake news ahead of election

President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen

The president of Taiwan, who led the country to legalising same-sex marriage, has been battling a wave of homophobic fake news in the lead up to the country’s presidential and legislative elections.

On May 17 2019, coinciding with International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage.

President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) pushed through the law in a vote, despite a referendum in November 2018 which showed that 72 per cent of people in Taiwan disagreed same-sex marriage.

But with another election coming up on January 11, Ing-wen is battling a wave of homophobic fake news by her opponents seeking to discredit her. According to Quartz, posts are being shared through the Korean chat app Line, which is popular in Taiwan, as well as on Facebook.

One post circulating states that the DPP has sponsored, and spent NT$30 million (£760,000) organising, this year’s Pride parade in Taipei, with photos of men wearing almost no clothing and the words: “Do you want your kids to be like this? Is this how you will cast your vote?”

Taiwan Pride 2019 was a celebration of the country’s historic decision to legalise same-sex marriage, with over 200,000 taking to the streets of Taipei – 50,000 more than the previous year.

According to the fact-checking website Mygopen: “All the funds were raised by the organisers, and the announced sponsors did not include any political parties.”

Taipei-based analyst at the University of Nottingham’s Taiwan studies programme posted a picture of a leaflet being distributed in Yunlin, which suggests that if voters want grandchildren they should not vote for Ing-wen or the DPP.

Other posts, according to Quartz, state that Ing-wen herself is gay because she is unmarried.

According to CNA, Facebook has reportedly set up a “war room” at its Taiwan offices to attempt combat all kinds of fake news and shut down fake accounts ahead of the January 11 election.

A similar “war room” was opened ahead of the 2018 US midterm election, to avoid a spread of misinformation on the same scale as before the 2016 presidential election.