A Obstacles to Access 24 25
B Limits on Content 30 35
C Violations of User Rights 25 40
Last Year's Score & Status
80 100 Free
Scores are based on a scale of 0 (least free) to 100 (most free). See the research methodology and report acknowledgements.

header1 Overview

Taiwan hosts one of the freest online environments in Asia. The information landscape is characterized by affordable internet access, diverse content, and a lack of website blocks or internet shutdowns. An independent judiciary protects free expression. Civil society, the technology sector, and the government have taken innovative action to counteract the impact of disinformation campaigns originating from China. However, criminal prosecutions for online activities and concerns over disproportionate surveillance all threaten internet freedom.

Taiwan’s vibrant and competitive democratic system has allowed three peaceful transfers of power between rival parties since 2000, and protections for civil liberties are generally robust. Ongoing concerns include inadequate safeguards against the exploitation of foreign migrant workers, and the Chinese government’s efforts to influence policymaking, the media, and democratic infrastructure in Taiwan.

header2 Key Developments, June 1, 2021 – May 31, 2022

  • Major mobile service providers Taiwan Mobile and Taiwan Star Telecom (T Star) announced a proposed merger in December 2021, and Far EasTone (FET) and Asia Pacific Telecom (APT) announced merger plans in February 2022. Regulators were still considering the proposals, which could dramatically reshape the market for internet users, at the end of the coverage period (see A4).
  • Authorities mistakenly blocked CoinMarketCap, a cryptocurrency exchange and media platform, in September and October 2021 as part of a fraud investigation, making for the first such restriction in recent years (see B1).
  • Policymakers released new draft policies and frameworks to govern the online environment throughout the coverage period, including an updated draft framework for a bill regulating over-the-top (OTT) service providers (see B3).
  • Internet users faced fines and suspended prison sentences over purported COVID-19-related misinformation (see C3).
  • In April 2022, the government ended the mandatory use of the 1922 short-message service (SMS) contact-tracing system, which uses QR codes to track users’ locations, citing the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic (see C6).

A Obstacles to Access

A1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections? 6.006 6.006

In general, there are no infrastructural limitations to internet access in Taiwan and the country boasts high rates of internet access. DataReportal’s Digital 2022 report placed Taiwan’s internet penetration rate at 91 percent and counted 21.7 million internet users.1 Other data sources placed the percentage slightly lower: the Taiwan Network Information Center (TWNIC) reported in 2020 that the penetration rate stood at 83 percent.2

Users can get online via a variety of connection standards; fixed-line broadband options include fiber-optic and digital subscriber line (DSL) connections, while mobile users rely on fourth- and fifth-generation (4G and 5G) technology. Free public Wi-Fi services are also available.3 According to the National Communications Commission (NCC), 5.8 million people subscribed to fixed-line broadband networks in 2019,4 while the penetration rate for mobile networks was 114 percent.5 There are nearly 10,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots across the country.6

The government is dedicated to upgrading mobile services to 4G standards and promoting 5G.7 2G was suspended in 2017,8 and telecommunications companies stopped offering 3G contracts in 2018.9 Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan’s largest telecommunications company, will stop providing 3G technical assistance for calls by 2024.10 Major service providers, such as Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile, and FET, began providing 5G service in major cities and several other areas in 2020.11 The number of 5G service users reached about 3.9 million by the end of October 2021.12

Taiwanese internet users enjoy fast internet speeds. In May 2022, Ookla reported Taiwan’s median mobile download and upload speeds as 49 Megabits per second (Mbps) and 11 Mbps, respectively. Fixed-line broadband download and upload speeds were reported at a median 104.1 Mbps and 44.9 Mbps.13

Taiwan Academic Network (TANet), which is maintained by the Ministry of Education and several universities, provides the network infrastructure for educational institutions, including universities and libraries.14

A2 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Is access to the internet prohibitively expensive or beyond the reach of certain segments of the population for geographical, social, or other reasons? 3.003 3.003

There are no significant digital divides in Taiwan, although slight disparities remain based on geographical area and age. Internet access, especially on mobile networks, is affordable. According to a TWNIC report, 95 to 97 percent of users spend less than 1 percent of their monthly income for mobile network access.1 The Inclusive Internet Index 2022 report noted improvements in the cost of internet access relative to income.2

There is a slight geographic digital divide, although it has been diminishing in recent years.3 A 2020 TWNIC report stated that 84 percent of people above the age of 12 in nonrural areas had internet access, compared to only 70 percent in rural areas.4

The age-based disparity in access is gradually improving. In 2020, the National Development Council (NDC) reported that 86.6 percent of people above the age of 12 accessed the internet, compared to 77.6 percent of people between the ages of 60 to 64 and 46.8 percent of people over the age of 65. Ratios slightly improved compared to 2019.5

There is no significant gender-based access divide. Some surveys report that men use the internet 2 to 5 percent more than women.6

Other groups have experienced a boost in internet access in recent years. For example, as of 2020, 96 percent of immigrants used the internet, a sharp increase from 72 percent in 2014.7 The government established the i-Tribe program to increase wireless broadband access for Indigenous communities.8 The program has reportedly improved people’s ability to access digital health-care services and other information.9

A3 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity? 6.006 6.006

The government does not intentionally restrict connectivity, and the country’s internet infrastructure is privately owned.

Taiwan’s four internet exchange points (IXPs)—TWIX, TPIX, EBIX, and TWNAP—are all operated by telecommunications companies, although TWNAP works largely as a data center and not an exchange point.1 The submarine cables connecting international networks are also privately owned.2 Chunghwa Telecom, 35 percent of which is held by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), lays the majority of submarine cables.3 In 2020, Google and Facebook proposed a plan for a submarine cable to connect the United States and Taiwan.4 In December 2021, the plan was endorsed by the US government.5

A4 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers? 5.005 6.006

While users have a choice of service providers, certain companies dominate the market. The Telecommunications Management Act (TMA),1 which was approved in June 2019 and came into effect in July 2020, replaces the Telecommunications Act (TA) and relaxes some of its rules. There is a three-year transition period for telecommunications companies to comply with the TMA.2

Under the TMA, service providers and intermediary telecommunications operators must register with the NCC.3 Previously, under the TA, companies that “install telecommunications equipment or provide telecommunications services” required a license from the MOTC and a certain amount of capital.4

Under the TMA’s provisions, direct foreign ownership of telecommunications services is limited to no more than 49 percent, and only 60 percent of shares may be owned indirectly or directly by foreigners.5

The TMA places some obligations on service providers that are not particularly onerous and are often meant to protect consumers. For example, telecommunications operators must take appropriate measures to protect the confidentiality of communications, provide public and easily accessible information to consumers, separate telecommunications and service fees from unrelated ones, and provide channels for consumers to lodge complaints.6

Previous market-entry requirements and the high cost of developing infrastructure, among other factors, allowed only a small number of providers to dominate the fixed-line and mobile markets.7 Five major telecommunication companies—Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile, FET, APT, and T Star—occupy the majority of the fixed-line market,8 with Chunghwa Telecom controlling approximately 68 percent as of April 2020.9 Though 82 companies offered fixed-line networking as of February 2020, most were small businesses that only provide local services. Five providers—Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile, FET, T Star, and APT—also provide mobile broadband service, with Chunghwa Telecom controlling 38.9 percent of the mobile broadband market as of January 2022.10

In December 2021, Taiwan Mobile and T Star agreed to pursue a merger. FET and APT announced their merger plans in February 2022.11 The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) and the NCC were reviewing the proposed mergers as of June 2022,12 with some concerns about the implications of the mergers for market competition.13

A5 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner? 4.004 4.004

Regulatory bodies that oversee telecommunications and other internet-related issues in Taiwan are generally seen as free, fair, and independent.

Established in 2006, the NCC is an independent government body responsible for regulating telecommunications and broadcasting services, including overseeing the telecommunications industry, managing domain names and internet protocol (IP) addresses, and processing and overseeing licenses;1 it has additionally governed TWNIC since 2017. The NCC’s mission includes promoting sound policy, safeguarding users’ rights, protecting consumer interests, and ensuring fair and effective competition in the market.2 The body is composed of seven commissioners who serve four-year terms, all of whom are nominated by the prime minister and approved by the Legislative Yuan. The prime minister is tasked with appointing both the chairperson and vice chairperson, however, prompting questions about the body’s independence.3 According to a report released by the Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation in November 2020, 68 percent of respondents over the age of 20 reported being concerned about the NCC’s independence.4

In November 2020, the NCC rejected an application from the pro-Beijing television channel Chung T’ien Television News (CTiTV) for its television license renewal after the NCC had repeatedly fined and issued warnings to the channel for violating regulations. CTiTV subsequently lost its ability to broadcast on television in Taiwan, although its online operations were not affected.5 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a statement saying that the de facto shutdown of a news channel was an “extreme measure,” but noted the channel’s repeated violations and stated that the NCC’s move did not constitute a violation of press freedom.6

Several other government bodies oversee digital technology. For example, the FTC oversees competition law as it relates to telecommunications or digital services. FTC and NCC decisions can be appealed to the judiciary.7 In recent years, several different government bodies have supervised the implementation of Taiwan’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) (see C6). The Department of Cyber Security (DCS) oversees issues related to security of critical infrastructure (see C8). In August 2022, after the coverage period, the government inaugurated the new Ministry of Digital Affairs, which will be led by former minister without portfolio Audrey Tang, to oversee policy areas including digital infrastructure, telecommunications, and internet development.8

The nature of online information dictates which agency is tasked with particular content regulation (see B2 and B3).9 For example, online content related to food hygiene is handled by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The Institute of Watch Internet Network (iWIN), a semiofficial organization funded by several government departments, is responsible for content related to children and youth.

B Limits on Content

B1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards? 5.005 6.006

Score Change: The score declined from 6 to 5 because authorities mistakenly blocked a cryptocurrency exchange and news platform.

The government does not generally compel service providers to block or filter websites or social media platforms. However, certain laws authorize the restriction of content online (see B3).

Although the services remain available and unblocked for users looking to access them online, the government increased its efforts to restrict content on Chinese streaming video platform iQIYI, which is owned by the Chinese firm Baidu, during the previous coverage period.1 In August 2020, the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced that Taiwanese companies could not provide video streaming-related services originating with Chinese companies or people, particularly iQIYI or Tencent, beginning that September. The rule updated the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area and formally prohibited companies and individuals in Taiwan to serve as agents or distributors of any Chinese OTT services via television or other broadcast methods, including the digital-television channel service Media on Demand.2

CoinMarketCap, a cryptocurrency exchange and news platform, was found to be blocked by telecommunication companies in September and October 2021. The Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) disclosed the website was mistakenly blocked in a fraud investigation.3 The CIB likely blocked the site under Article 8 of the TMA, which some commentators said was an overbroad interpretation of the law.4

The Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR) reported in 2018 that the Taipei city government filtered certain content on its free Wi-Fi services provided to public spaces.5 For example, the city government confirmed that it filtered websites related to drug abuse, adult content, gambling, phishing, sex education, and weapons. Information agencies in the cities of New Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung reported to the organization that they did not block websites on their wireless networks.

The Ministry of Education’s Network Guardian Angels (NGA) is content-filtering software available to the public, geared toward parents and educational institutions. According to a national report, NGA was downloaded nearly 99,000 times between January and November 2020.6 The TAHR found that NGA-filtered content is based on unclear standards and has targeted civil society websites, including the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty and Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, a group serving the LGBT+ community.7

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards? 3.003 4.004

Expression protected by international human rights standards is generally not forcibly removed, and intermediaries do not face onerous liability for content generated by third parties. However, a range of laws prohibit the publishing of certain kinds of content and have permitted content removal (see B3).1 The TAHR reported, for example, that the government cited the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation 153 times in requests to remove content between 2015 and 2016. The Copyright Act also lays out a notice-and-takedown procedure that obligates intermediaries to remove third-party content that infringes on copyright.2

The judiciary has addressed cases that include requests to remove content in recent years. In January 2022, a court ordered a city councilor to remove a YouTube video that spread false information about another legislator.3 In September 2021, a court ordered Liang Mu-yang, a newspaper journalist and former legislator, to remove Facebook posts and 49 YouTube videos about a county magistrate with whom Liang was in dispute, after the magistrate filed a civil claim over Liang’s posting of purportedly false and biased information.4

iWIN was established under Article 46 of the Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act. The act requires that content hosts limit receiving and browsing of content deemed harmful to the physical and mental health of children and youth, such as that featuring violence, blood, sex, obscenity, and gambling.5 Among other measures, iWIN identifies this content through a complaint mechanism for users, content-screening software, promotion and review of content, a content rating system, and a self-discipline mechanism for service providers.6

iWin reported receiving 3,912 complaints in 2021, including 1,855 cases related to pornography, 359 cases related to articles considered harmful to children and youth, 337 cases related to other content considered harmful to the physical and mental health of children and youth, 320 cyberbullying cases, 334 cases related to private photographs of children and youth, and 328 cases related to false information. iWin reported 1,506 of the complaints to companies and deny-listed 741 pieces of content through filtering software.7 It is unclear what percentage of complaints and reports to companies led to content being removed.

Google reported removing one item pursuant to a Taiwanese government request during the period from July to December 2021, after receiving a total of six requests.8 Facebook restricted over 4,900 items in Taiwan during the same period, compared to 716 items in the first half of 2021 and less than 10 items in all previous six-month periods. Facebook disclosed that most of the requests came from the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection, the Council of Agriculture, the National Immigration Agency, and the Department of Interior, but did not explain the reason for the removals.9

Technology platforms have also restricted content for reasons other than government requests. A Citizen Lab report released in August 2021 found that keyword filtering attached to Apple’s product engraving service limited 338 keywords.10 Restrictions included “social content” keywords such as those deemed sexually explicit, references to illicit goods and services, and vulgarity, but also included 29 “political content” keywords, including names of high-ranking members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Mao Zedong, and the Falun Gong spiritual movement.

DPP parliamentarian Wang Dingyu alleged in October 2021 that Facebook moderates Taiwanese content in line with CCP standards, citing concerns about the removal of content criticizing China and ordering the National Security Bureau (NSB) to confirm with Facebook.11 Facebook denied the allegations.12

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process? 4.004 4.004

Technical censorship is not routine in Taiwan. Government-ordered restrictions on content are grounded in law. However, civil society has raised concerns over a lack of transparency about and oversight over which government and law enforcement agencies order removal requests and how frequently they are complied with (see B2).1

A range of laws prohibit publishing certain kinds of content, including the Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act, the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act, the Consumer Protection Act, and the Cosmetic Hygiene and Safety Act.2 The Statute for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Diseases, for example, allows the government to compel providers to block access to websites or remove webpages that sell animal products that are banned or subjected to quarantine.3 No regulation mandates that the government disclose related content-restriction requests.

The judiciary has issued rulings around online censorship. In 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled that Article 24(2) and Article 30(1) of the Cosmetic Hygiene and Safety Act (then known as the Statute for Control of Cosmetic Hygiene), which required that manufacturers get approval from state officials before publicizing online cosmetic advertisements, were unconstitutional.4 The court validated the importance of commercial expression that helps consumers make economic choices.

The right to be forgotten remained under litigation during the coverage period. In 2018, the High Court had heard an earlier ruling by a district court in a case where the former owner of a professional baseball team requested, under the PDPA, that Google remove content claiming that he engaged in illegal betting and fraud (see C6).5 The court originally ruled that the PDPA does not explicitly protect the right to be forgotten, and that removal can only occur when the personal data is incorrect, is unlawfully processed or collected, or when the purpose for the data no longer exists. However, in February 2021, the Supreme Court ordered the High Court to hear the case again and determine whether the request is within the scope of the PDPA.6 The case is still pending as of June 2022.

Several new bills that relate to online content were raised during the coverage period. In March 2022, the cabinet proposed a draft amendment to Sexual Assault Crime Prevention Act that would add criminal penalties for producing or disseminating sexual images of a person without their consent. The draft seeks to address the production, leak, distribution, or manipulation of sexual images and videos. New draft amendments to the Child and Youth Sexual Exploitation Prevention Act would require platforms to create technical systems to remove or restrict the access of illegal content immediately once the content is detected. 7 In a May 2022 statement, the Taiwan Internet Governance Forum called for content restrictions to be subject to judicial review and due process.8

In June 2022, after the coverage period, the NCC published the draft Digital Intermediary Services Act (DISA), with a two-month public-comment period that was later extended after the draft was criticized.9 The DISA would impose varying degrees of obligations on digital communications platforms, including mandates that online platforms release transparency reports and online advertising disclosures and provide strong notice-and-appeal mechanisms relating to content removal. It would also require service providers to label contents mandated by administrative agencies, and comply with court orders to remove, restrict the spread of contents.10 The DISA was previously known as the Digital Communications and Broadcasting Act, a version of which was published in January 2017 but failed to pass.11

In May 2022, the NCC released a new framework for the draft Internet Audiovisual Service Management Act (IASMA), which was introduced in July 2020 to regulate OTT platforms.12 The bill’s introduction was thought to be influenced by concerns that Chinese OTT services, such as iQIYI, were operating in the country without NCC approval as per Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area. The framework would introduce size-oriented obligations for OTT platforms, including around content removal and government requests for information.13 An updated IASMA draft that reflects the May 2022 framework was not released as of the end of the coverage period.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship? 3.003 4.004

Journalists, civil society groups, activists, and ordinary users generally do not self-censor online. However, some laws that include liability for online content—such as the Social Order Maintenance Act (SOMA) and criminal defamation provisions—may influence self-censorship (see C2 and C3). Self-censorship is also driven by fear of professional or legal reprisals in China and Hong Kong.

High-profile prosecutions have left some Taiwanese people who need to travel to China wary of discussing China-related issues online. For example, Taiwanese activist Lee Ming-che was arrested by the Chinese government in 2017 while transiting through Macau and later convicted to five years in prison for “subverting state power;” social media content he posted while in Taiwan were used as evidence in court.1 Lee was released and returned to Taiwan in April 2022.2

Hong Kong’s National Security Law, which was implemented in June 2020, may also encourage self-censorship of China-related speech because the scope of penalties extends to speech made outside China.3 Separately, some companies, journalists, and users have issued apologies for referring to Taiwan as a country, after receiving backlash from the Chinese government and progovernment actors.4

Concerns about Chinese technology may also drive self-censorship. In January 2022, the NCC reported that some mobile phones produced by Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi monitor content for certain keywords, can potentially block or filter that content, and could transmit users’ online activity “to servers in Beijing.”5

B5 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest? 2.002 4.004

The government does not issue formal directives or attempt to coerce online outlets to influence their reporting. However, political disinformation and online influence operations are a significant issue, particularly those which support the Chinese government’s positions or that emanate directly from Chinese party-state actors.1 The government has taken innovative action to counteract false and manipulated information in the country (see B7).

The think tank Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) identified Taiwan as one of the two liberal democracies most targeted by the spread of false information by foreign governments in a 2019 report.2 Popular topics have included reunification between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, flaws in Taiwanese democracy, information discrediting the government’s response to COVID-19, and content aimed at smearing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidates, particularly during elections.3

In January 2022, the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau reported on the existence of inauthentic accounts on Facebook and Taiwanese platform PTT and CK101 that distributed false information and content that originated from Chinese content farms.4

An October 2020 report from researchers at the Taiwanese civil society group Doublethink Lab identified several disinformation tactics used to support commentary that aligns with the Chinese party-state’s positions; these originate with a range of actors including the Chinese government, the CCP, military agencies, private companies, and ordinary users. The tactics include financial incentives for Taiwanese outlets to broadcast pro-China narratives, the use of content farms that disseminate low-quality articles designed to spread quickly on social media, and the deployment of local Taiwanese online influencers and nationalist Chinese netizens to spread pro-Beijing messages.5 Another group, the US-based cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, reported in 2020 that provincial authorities in China recruited prounification influencers in Taiwan with salaries ranging from $740 to $1,460 per month.6 China-based Taiwanese vloggers are increasingly active in spreading pro-CCP commentary on social media.7

Reports have also alleged that Taiwanese news outlets have received direction or payment from Beijing. An investigation published in April 2022 by Doublethink Lab showed that Taiwan’s media environment is ranked as the most influenced environment by China among the 36 countries it studied.8 Reuters reported in August 2019 that Chinese mainland authorities paid at least five media groups in Taiwan for coverage.9 According to the agency, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office paid 30,000 reminbi ($4,700) for two favorable stories about Beijing’s attempts to attract Taiwanese businesspeople to China, which were placed in outlets Reuters did not disclose. The NSB alleged in May 2019 that the Chinese government was involved in reviewing editorial content for certain Taiwanese news outlets but declined to say which.10

A joint investigation from Doublethink Lab and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute released in August 2021 analyzed content-farm websites that target Taiwanese audiences.11 Content on one site, Qiqis.org, was found to demonstrate high bias toward Beijing’s preferred narratives, running critical stories about the US government generally and the January 6, 2021, Capitol building attack in particular.

Taiwan’s leading political parties—the DPP, Kuomintang (KMT), and the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP)—have each claimed that their opponents have hired or deployed commentators to spread manipulated information online.12 In June 2022, after the coverage period, Ko Wen-je, Taipei City mayor and the TPP’s chairperson, was criticized for coordinating online commentators after civil servants were discovered posting anti-DPP content from government IP addresses during working hours.13 Ko denied the allegation.14

Interviewees who featured in a 2017 University of Oxford working paper claimed that individuals were paid by election campaigns and political parties to spread messages online. However, they did not clarify whether the content was false or particularly misleading.15

B6 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online? 3.003 3.003

Taiwanese users do not face onerous constraints on their ability to publish content online. Online or digital news outlets are not required to obtain a license in order to publish. Service providers are regulated by the TMA and must provide services in a nondiscriminatory manner in terms of connection quality, price, condition, and information (see A4).1

Some regulations restrict online advertisement or investment originating from China. The Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area requires government approval for mainland Chinese entities to directly own media properties and entities. It also bans CCP advertisements.2

The draft IASMA would require OTT services of a particular size, revenue, traffic, or market influence to register, or face fines ranging from NT$100,000 to NT$1 million ($3,600 to $36,100) (see B3).3 Foreign-owned services would be required to set up a local representative if they do not already have one, and report periodically to the NCC about the number of domestic subscribers, traffic and revenue, and user engagement.4 Local telecommunication companies that serve illegal Chinese OTT services can also face onerous fines.5

B7 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the online information landscape lack diversity and reliability? 4.004 4.004

Taiwan’s online information and digital media ecosystem reflects varied interests, experiences, communities, and languages. A range of newer online outlets contributes to this diversity. According to a 2020 survey conducted for the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford, 83 percent of the population consumed news online and 59 percent via social media; only 21 percent read print news, down from 41 percent in 2017.1

However, the media environment suffers from political polarization and sensationalist content.2 Only 24 percent of people surveyed for the Reuters Institute’s 2020 report considered the news reliable, with only 16 percent trusting news on social media.3 A study from the Taiwan Media Watch Foundation also found that people in Taiwan view the media environment as less credible and less reliable in 2019 than they did in 2014.4

Misinformation online and across Line, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the popular PTT online bulletin board can undermine people’s ability to access reliable information (see B5).5 For instance, misinformation about coronavirus vaccines spread after a surge of cases in May 2021, such as that vaccines could cause death in elderly people.6 A study of COVID-19 misinformation on Taiwanese digital media found a spike in reports in June 2021, as the pandemic intensified in Taiwan and the government launched a vaccination campaign.7

The government, technology industry, and civil society have designed innovative tools to counteract the impact of false and misleading information in Taiwan (see B5).8 For example, Digital Minister Audrey Tang announced in 2019 that each government department had employed “meme engineers” to respond quickly to disinformation efforts. Additionally, Line users can report information for fact-checking to Cofacts, a bot created by the decentralized “gov-zero” community,9 and can receive information about its validity. Organizations like Doublethink Lab have also conducted innovative research to uncover and analyze disinformation campaigns and their impact.10

B8 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues? 6.006 6.006

People in Taiwan can freely use digital platforms and online sources to debate and mobilize around social and political issues, including on social media platforms like Line and Facebook, as well as the online bulletin board PTT.

The Platform for Online Participation in Public Policy, maintained by the NDC, offers an official way for the general public to propose, engage, monitor, and reply to public policies online.1 Though users report a high degree of satisfaction with the platform,2 the TPP has criticized its low acceptance ratio. Only 0.43 percent of proposals were accepted, according to an NDC report.3

Current events tend to prompt considerable debate on social media. After Russian forces launched their invasion of Ukraine in February 2021, Taiwanese internet users mobilized on social media to support Ukraine.4 A February 2021 referendum on the protection of algae reefs attracted thousands of shares and influenced public opinion on the issue.5

C Violations of User Rights

C1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence? 5.005 6.006

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are constitutionally protected.1 The government has also incorporated free expression and access-to-information protections under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) into domestic law.2 The Freedom of Government Information Law was enacted in 2005.3

Taiwan’s judiciary is relatively independent and protected by the Judges Act.4 The judicial system provides considerable protection for speech (see C3). However, at least one court ruling has undermined strong free expression standards. In 2000, the Constitutional Court stated that the crime of defamation does not violate the constitution’s free-speech protections (see C2).5

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? 2.002 4.004

A range of laws criminalize online activities. Defamation and slander are criminal offenses. Article 309 of the criminal code imposes up to two months’ detention or a fine of NT$9,000 ($324) for publicly insulting another person. Article 140 outlines liability of up to one year in prison or a fine of up to NT$100,000 ($3,600) if an individual “offers an insult to a public official during the legal discharge of his duties.” In December 2021, the parliament amended Article 140 to remove a clause criminalizing “insult to a public office” and raise the punishment for the remaining provision.1 Some legislators have argued that Article 140 violates free-expression protections and called for amending the criminal code.2

Article 310 of the criminal code imposes up to two years in prison or a fine if an individual is found guilty of “point[ing] out or disseminat[ing] a fact which will injure the reputation of another for purpose that it be communicated to the public” in writing.3 People who allege they are slandered can also request financial compensation. For defamation cases, the law excludes speech that can be proven to be true, is related to public concern, and is a “fair comment on a fact subject to public criticism.” Prominent politicians and prosecutors have criticized the criminal insult and defamation provisions as conflicting with the constitution.4

Several laws impose liability for disseminating false or misleading information. Under the SOMA, users can be penalized for “spreading rumors in a way that is sufficient to undermine public order and peace” with up to three days of detention or a fine of no more than NT$30,000 ($1,080).5 The law has been used to investigate online activities (see C3).

In September 2021, the Constitutional Court stated that Article 38 of the SOMA was unconstitutional. That article allowed law enforcement units to simultaneously seek administrative fines and criminal penalties for a single case. After the ruling, law enforcement departments may only charge a person accused of crimes with an administrative fine or a criminal penalty, including in cases that relate to online expression.6

Article 14 of the Special Act for Prevention, Relief, and Revitalization Measures for Severe Pneumonia with Novel Pathogens, which has been in force since January 2020, imposes up to three years of imprisonment and high fines for the dissemination of rumors or false information regarding epidemics deemed to cause damage to the public and others.7 Similarly, Article 63 of the Communicable Disease Control Act, promulgated in June 2019, outlines a fine of no more than NT$3 million (US$108,000) for spreading rumors or false information about an epidemic that causes substantial harm to the public or others.8

Spreading false information during election periods can also lead to criminal penalties. Article 104 of the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act imposes a maximum of five years in prison for damaging the public by disseminating rumors or fraudulent content in order to elect or not elect a candidate, or for a political proposal.9 In December 2019, the legislature passed the Anti-Infiltration Act, which includes criminal penalties for spreading election-related disinformation that is instructed, funded, or sponsored by hostile foreign forces.10 After the passage of the act, pro-Beijing online media outlet Master Chain announced that it was ending operations in Taiwan.11

Under the Disaster Prevention and Rescue Law, anyone who knowingly reports false information about a disaster faces fines of NT$300,000 to NT$500,000 (US$10,800 to US$18,000).12 The Food Administration Act states that no one shall “deliberately disseminate rumors or false information” relating to market food prices and the implementation of food productive programs, among other issues.13

C3 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are individuals penalized for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? 4.004 6.006

Internet users in Taiwan have been investigated or prosecuted for their online activities, although cases rarely lead to significant penalties like prison terms or steep fines.

Cases under the SOMA have increased in recent years, with 151 in 2019 and 320 in 2020.1 The majority of SOMA cases do not lead to convictions2 —243 of the 320 cases reported in 2020 resulted in no penalty, for instance.3

Several SOMA cases from the coverage period resulted in fines, particularly relating to COVID-19 misinformation. In March 2022, a user was fined NT$3,000 ($108) for sharing false information in a Facebook group claiming that people returning to Taiwan can avoid quarantine by following specific steps.4 In September 2021, internet celebrity Sun-Sheng was fined NT$8,000 ($290) over a May 2021 Instagram post that incorrectly claimed that a pandemic-related lockdown had been implemented.5 In December 2021, an Instagram user was fined NT$3,000 ($108) for expressing fears that a COVID-19 outbreak in Fangshan Township would prompt a lockdown in June 2021, which a court deemed to be false information.6 Also in July 2021, another user was fined NT$3,000 ($108) after he posted on Facebook claiming that President Tsai Ing-wen could earn private interest through approving a specific vaccine.7

Most investigations under the SOMA were dismissed by the judiciary. In September 2021, retired police officer Li Chin-ruey, also known as Police Dove, was charged under the SOMA for posting that he was professionally punished for a “bad attitude” over comments regarding the son of former prime minister Frank Hsieh Chang-ting. In January 2022, the court ruled that Li did not violate the law because his comments did not clearly affect public order.8

In February 2022, a court found Yang Hui-ru and Cai Fu-ming guilty of insulting a public official under Article 40 of the criminal code and sentenced both to five months’ imprisonment, along with a fine. Yang was also charged under the SOMA, though the court found her not guilty on those charges.9 Yang and Cai were charged in relation to claims that they incited cybertroops to spread rumors that allegedly contributed to a diplomat’s death by suicide in 2018 and for insulting public officials.10

Internet users were found guilty of and fined for violating Article 14 of the Special Act for Prevention, Relief, and Revitalization Measures for Severe Pneumonia with Novel Pathogens during the coverage period. One user, for example, was fined and issued a suspended sentence in October 2021 for claiming that coronavirus cases were higher than officially reported in a Facebook post.11 Two others received suspended sentences in May 2022 for managing social media groups that spread COVID-19-related misinformation, which Taiwanese authorities attributed to training from mainland Chinese officials.12

C4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption? 3.003 4.004

There are some limits on anonymous communication, as Taiwan has mandatory SIM card registration requirements.1 Telecommunications-related laws and regulations require service providers to record basic user information, including names and identification numbers, when selling all telecommunications numbers (including prepaid SIM cards).2 The NCC emphasized in 2017 that registration assists relevant agencies in criminal and fraud investigation and prevention.3

Residents of Taiwan can freely use encryption technology. The Communication Security and Surveillance Act (CSSA) authorizes law enforcement agencies to intercept wired and wireless telecommunications signals with court authorization.4 There is currently no explicit legal obligation for telecommunications companies to decrypt messages or provide decryption keys to law enforcement agencies, although they should ensure that software is compatible with interception efforts so that they can assist government surveillance.5 Some within law enforcement agencies have complained that failure to decrypt undermines criminal investigations.6

In September 2020, the Ministry of Justice released the draft of Technology Investigation Act, which would empower law enforcement agencies that have a court order to access users’ electronic devices, including encrypted communications, via in-person contact, network transfer, or other necessary means such as malware (see C5).7 The draft remains pending as of the end of the coverage period.

C5 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy? 3.003 6.006

The Taiwanese constitution expressly guarantees secret communications and requires oversight for law enforcement agencies to monitor people’s communications.1 Judicial interpretations of the constitution have also protected the right to privacy and the right to self-determination of information.2 Additionally, the PDPA stipulates the collection, processing, and utilization of personal data by government agencies and the private sector (see C6).3 However, certain surveillance laws and procedures undermine these privacy rights in practice.

The CSSA stipulates that a court-approved “interception warrant” is required to access the content of communications for a range of alleged crimes that impose a minimum of a three-year prison term.4 For the same type of crimes, a prosecutor can apply for an “access warrant” from a court to access metadata records. However, in urgent situations and for specific felonies, prosecutors do not require the court’s permission and can instead inform the enforcement authority to start surveillance.5 Within 24 hours of doing so, the prosecutor must apply for the warrant; if the court does not issue a warrant within 48 hours, the surveillance ceases. For certain serious crimes, including those that could result in prison terms of at least 10 years, prosecutors can directly access metadata without applying for a judicial warrant.6 The Code of Criminal Procedure also lays out provisions for law enforcement authorities to access personal data.7

The CSSA requires that the enforcement unit and the supervisory unit publish statistical reports about communication-surveillance and communication-record retrieval.8 According to a report from the Judicial Yuan and the Ministry of Justice, there were almost 51,000 communications surveillance cases, and over 100,000 communication-record retrieval cases in 2021.9 More than 96 percent of cases did not require court approval. 10 In its 2018 Internet Transparency Report, the TAHR reported that the lack of judicial review over requests has been increasingly normalized.11

The CSSA empowers the NSB to issue an interception warrant itself—without judicial oversight—during times of emergency, to conduct surveillance on the domestic communication of “foreign forces or hostile foreign forces” for the purposes of national security.12 The NSB is not required to disclose its surveillance activity.

The Code of Criminal Procedure also lays out provisions for law enforcement authorities to access nontelecommunication personal data with a court-approved search warrant or by receiving voluntary consent of the person being searched.13

The draft Technology Investigation Act, introduced in September 2020, would increase authorities’ ability to monitor communications.14 For example, prosecutors could use GPS or other location-tracking tools for a two-month period of investigation without a warrant.15 The draft also authorizes police to use drone or aerial devices, on which Dirtbox-like devices—powerful devices that can facilitate surveillance by impersonating a cell phone tower—may be installed, and which may conduct surveillance for up to 30 days. Electronic devices could also be hacked into, and authorities may install malware to monitor communications (see C4). The Ministry of Justice cited new forms of digital crimes, particularly those coordinated on messaging apps, as necessitating the new powers.16 Civil society and other stakeholders criticized the draft’s provisions as permitting major violations to the right to privacy, and other human rights.17 It remained pending at the end of the coverage period.

Law enforcement have access to and deploy “M-Car” devices, which are car-mounted base stations that can intercept a target’s mobile phone signal to detect their location. After obtaining communication records and user information, law enforcement agencies can use the M-Car device to capture International Mobile Equipment Identities (IMEIs) and International Mobile Subscriber Identities (IMSIs) and compare signal strengths to accurately locate users. There are currently no clear rules for the use of M-Car devices. However, a court in February 2021 held that their use is legal.18 In January 2022, the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office (THPO) disclosed that five law enforcement units, including the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau and the National Police Agency, are equipped with M-Cars, and THPO is planning to establish a M-Car team for future investigations.19

It is unclear whether the government has access to spyware technology, although some reports suggest that it does. In a 2015 report, Citizen Lab called the Taiwanese government or law enforcement “suspected customers” of FinFisher, and traced FinFisher servers to the country.20 Previously, government agencies were found to have been in conversation with the now-defunct Italian firm Hacking Team about purchasing spyware, although there is no evidence that it was purchased.21

There are also concerns that state agencies conduct social media surveillance. The NSB admitted in 2018 that they monitor social media in order to track disinformation emanating from China and to ensure national security.22 Other government units have also been found to have purchased monitoring and analytic systems.23

C6 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does monitoring and collection of user data by service providers and other technology companies infringe on users’ right to privacy? 3.003 6.006

The PDPA governs the collection, processing, and usage of personal data, including by the private sector and nongovernmental agencies. The law broadly defines personal data to include any data that can be used to directly or indirectly identify an individual, including medical information, education, financial data, and social activities. The PDPA also regulates the cross-border transfer of data1 and stipulates that individuals can apply for judicial relief if a public or private actor violates the law.

The PDPA lacks an independent and dedicated competent authority overseeing its implementation, although the law’s enforcement rules include regulation and supervision in a more decentralized manner. Since 2018, for example, the NDC has maintained a dedicated PDPA oversight office.2 In 2019, the government solicited public comment to determine whether the PDPA should be amended to fully comply with principles in the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.3

The government has enforced the PDPA to protect privacy. In December 2021, the Ministry of Culture ordered Apple Daily—an online outlet affiliated with the Hong Kong–based Apple Daily newspaper until the latter company’s assets were frozen under Hong Kong’s National Security Law—should not transfer personal data to Hong Kong authorities. The ministry cited concerns that the Chinese government would exploit the information and urged the Taiwanese outlet to delete customers’ personal data.4

The TMA and the CSSA require service providers and the telecommunications industry to cooperate with criminal investigations and comply with law enforcement and other government authorities’ surveillance requirements (see C5).5

Government units with certain investigative powers have also gone directly to state agencies and private companies to request personal data without first receiving a court order or other oversight.6 For example, the Ministry of Economic Affairs received information in all of the 1,112 personal data requests it filed between 2017 and 2018, the most recent data available; 112 of the requests were to government agencies, with 1,000 to nongovernment agencies, including Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile, and Yahoo! Taiwan Holdings Limited.7 Between 2015 and 2016, the Ministry of Finance submitted 350 requests with a 99.4 percent success rate. The CIB also reportedly issued 565 requests to Facebook through this process, with a 52.9 percent success rate, between 2015 and 2016.8

Several laws mandate different data-retention requirements.9 Telecommunications providers are required to store communication records, subscriber information, and billing details for at least a year.10

The government increased data collection and other monitoring during the COVID-19 pandemic, practices that have been criticized by civil society groups and other experts as lacking legality and proportionality.11 In February 2020, the Special Act for Prevention, Relief, and Revitalization Measures for Severe Pneumonia with Novel Pathogens was enacted, giving the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) broad power to conduct contact tracing and publicize personal information.12 The act states that personal information collected for pandemic response will be “processed in accordance with related regulations for personal data protection after the end of the pandemic” and the government has also claimed it will delete stored data after the pandemic.13

The Electronic Fence System uses mobile location tracking data to ensure individuals remain in quarantine.14 It remained active during the coverage period, though its measures were reportedly loosened in May 2022.15 The CECC can access aggregated data from the system, and police responding to quarantine-related alerts can access an individual’s name, phone number, and address. Those in quarantine must keep their phones on in order for the tracking to work.

In April 2022, the government suspended the mandatory implementation of the 1922 SMS contact-tracing system,16 which was introduced in May 2021 and used QR codes to track when users enter or leave locations including stores, government buildings, and public transportation.17 Mobile service providers helped facilitate tracking: when an individual tested positive for COVID-19, a contact tracer provided their phone number to the provider, which analyzed location data to determine who was in proximity of that individual. As of May 2022, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control reported it had retrieved more than 42 million records and deleted almost 4.8 billion records.18

The data is purportedly only supposed to be used for epidemiological investigations.19 However, in June 2021, a Taichung District Court judge alleged that the service was used to locate an accused individual in a criminal investigation.20 The NCC responded by again stating that the service is only used for epidemiological purposes.21

Additionally, in February 2020, a coronavirus outbreak on the cruise ship Diamond Princess prompted the government to obtain mobile-phone location information of over 600,000 people from telecommunications companies for contact tracing.22

C7 1.00-5.00 pts0-5 pts
Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in relation to their online activities? 4.004 5.005

Users are generally free from physical violence or other serious threats due to their online activity, although online harassment remains a concern.

“Cyber manhunts” refer to the identification and pursuit of someone following criticism or their involvement in controversial events, and often include doxing. In early April 2021, following a fatal train derailment, online users tried to identify who caused the crash. One passenger was mistakenly accused of being at fault and was subject to online harassment.1 In December 2020, after an airline pilot was infected with COVID-19 and broke Taiwan’s 253-day zero-diagnosed record, the pilot’s personal information and family background were exposed online by users. Another woman was incorrectly alleged to have contracted the virus from the pilot.2 In September 2021, after a cluster of COVID-19 infections originated from a kindergarten, internet users exposed the personal information and addresses of teachers and parents.3

Although not routine, users have faced physical threats in relation to online activities during previous coverage periods. In February 2022, a PTT influencer known as 4xCat was threatened by a municipal candidate over Facebook posts criticizing him.4

In November 2021, the Legislative Yuan passed the Anti-Stalking Act, which seeks to prevent harassment and stalking, including online harassment.5 The law took effect in June 2022, after the coverage period.6

  • 1Lai Xiaotong, “台鐵出軌》我是乘客!被誤認義祥工人遭肉搜 他不排除提告 [‘Taiwan Railway Derails’ I am a passenger! Workers who were mistakenly identified as Yixiang were searched for meat. He does not rule out complaints],” Liberty Times, April 05, 2021, https://news.ltn.com.tw/news/society/breakingnews/3490246.
  • 2Xiu Ruiying, “遭網友肉搜影射為廣達女 曾姓女子發聲明否認「準備提告」[Netizen Rousou alluded to be a Quanta woman. A woman surnamed Zeng issued a statement denying that she was ready to sue],” United Daily News, December 23, 2020, https://udn.com/news/story/120940/5115790.
  • 3Chen Chang-yuan, “【看得見的恐懼2】新北幼兒園發生群聚感染 家長老師都遭肉搜 [Visible fear 2: A kindergarten in New Taipei City outbreak of cluster infection. Parents and teachers are cyber-manhunted.]”, The Mirror Media, February 28, 2022, https://www.mirrormedia.mg/story/20220221pol003/
  • 4Chen Chien-Chi, “擺「靈堂」嗆四叉貓 民眾黨江和樹道歉了[TPP Jiang He-shu apologizes for choking the 4xCat by Setting the "mourning hall"]”, Liberty Times Net, ,https://news.ltn.com.tw/news/politics/breakingnews/3833312
  • 5Executive Yuan, “加強保護跟騷受害人 行政院會通過「跟蹤騷擾防制法」草案 [Strengthening the protection of harassment victims. The Executive Yuan will pass a draft of the ‘Stalking Harassment Prevention Law’],” April 22, 2021, https://www.ey.gov.tw/Page/9277F759E41CCD91/9b052834-00e3-4796-a32a-f6f….
  • 6Lin Yu-hsuan, Wang Cheng-chung, Lai Yu-chen and Elizabeth Hsu, “New anti-stalking bill clears Taiwan's Legislature”, Focus Taiwan, November 19, 2021, https://focustaiwan.tw/society/202111190022
C8 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack? 1.001 3.003

Taiwan faces frequent overseas cyberattacks, emanating from Beijing in particular.

In June 2021, the DCS reported that government agencies were targeted with 525 cybersecurity incidents in 2020. Some 68.7 percent of the incidents from were categorized as “illegal intrusion” relating to third-party vulnerabilities, 6.7 percent were attacks against webpages, and the remainder were related to equipment problems, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, and other issues.1 The DCS previously said in 2019 that Taiwan faced about 30 million technical attacks every month, such as webpage defacements and DDoS attacks—half of which are speculated to originate in China.2 Four Chinese government-backed hacking groups are believed to have been involved in attacks against Taiwan as of August 2020.3 In its 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the US State Department noted that Chinese government actors conducted cyberattacks against Taiwanese journalists’ computers and mobile phones.4

In November 2021, the Taiwan Stock Exchange Corporation and Taiwan Futures Exchange, two of the most important financial entities in Taiwan, reported that several securities dealers and futures dealers were hacked; some customer data leaked and was used to place orders.5 The cybersecurity company assisting the investigation claimed that APT10, a China-based hacking group, was responsible.6

Data leaks are also a serious issue in Taiwan. Several data leaks occurred during the coverage period, with customer data leaked from McDonald’s,7 the catering business Wowprime,8 and the online shopping platform friDay.9

The Cyber Security Management Act oversees the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure providers. It requires that public agencies formulate cybersecurity maintenance plans and stipulates report-and-response mechanisms for security incidents.10 The Executive Yuan was responsible for establishing the DCS.11

On Taiwan

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  • Global Freedom Score

    94 100 free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    78 100 free
  • Freedom in the World Status

  • Networks Restricted

  • Websites Blocked

  • Pro-government Commentators

  • Users Arrested