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Scott Busby, U.S. State Department, Defending Democracy through Media Literacy II, September 10, 2019

Busby is Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. He spoke in Taipei, Taiwan.

September 26, 2019

Chairman Su, Minister Wu, Representative Nishiumi, Representative Jevrell, Director Christensen, and distinguished guests, “ZOW-shang How!” (good morning)

I am pleased to make a return trip to beautiful Taiwan and join you again, during this important time, for the second GCTF workshop on “Defending Democracy through Media Literacy.”

There are few better places than Taiwan to have this discussion both because of the success you have had in building a rights-respecting democracy, and the threats posed by outside forces to what you have accomplished.

I commend Taiwan for its commitment to universally accepted human rights and democratic principles focused on respecting the dignity of every individual.  These include the fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, press, association, and peaceful assembly.

We believe these freedoms must be vigorously protected throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region, including in Hong Kong, in order to preserve stability, security, and prosperity.

The Indo-Pacific Transparency Initiative is the cornerstone of the governance pillar of our vision for a free and open U.S. Indo-Pacific.  Authoritarian governments that routinely abuse the rights of their citizens make the world a less stable – and far more dangerous place for all of us.

The Transparency Initiative prioritizes battling corruption and promoting fiscal transparency. It also includes support for democracy assistance, youth and emerging leader development, media and internet freedom, and fundamental freedoms and human rights.  We look forward to exploring opportunities to partner more closely with Taiwan to promote civil society, the rule of law, and transparent and accountable governments across the region.

We also are working to counter disinformation that seeks to undermine the credibility and outcomes of democratic elections.  It is an ongoing challenge that the U.S. faces.

Taiwan’s 2020 elections are just a few short months away, and China once again seeks to use disinformation to undermine the vote, divide the people, and sow seeds of doubt in the democratic system itself.

China has invested heavily to develop ever-more sophisticated ways to anonymously disseminate disinformation through a number of channels, including social media.

As their malign methods evolve, the motivation remains the same – to weaken democracy and end the freedoms that the citizens of Taiwan have come to enjoy after many long years of struggle.

We are here today to discuss how best to help our societies resist this malign disinformation in a way that does not restrict human rights and fundamental freedoms of our citizens.

Unlike authoritarian governments, we believe in the rights of the individual, and we do not favor compromising those rights as we tackle the challenges posed by disinformation.  Our strength rests in these values.

To effectively overcome disinformation, we must embrace our values, and maintain the open exchange of ideas, just as we will do in the coming two days at this workshop.

The U.S. government encourages a holistic approach to identifying, tracking, and countering disinformation. We are pushing back by raising awareness among vulnerable audiences, increasing societal resilience, and championing independent media. We are closely monitoring and analysing the latest tools and techniques used by those who are leading disinformation campaigns.

One way to boost our resilience and raise the cost for our adversaries is through education – an educated population with a high degree of media literacy is a harder, costlier target for anyone trying to fool it with disinformation.  We applaud Taiwan’s introduction of a curriculum throughout its educational system to enhance media literacy.

Across our own government, we are working closely to share information and increase awareness by conducting outreach to the public, private industry, civil society, and academic groups.  We advise citizens to consider the origin of their information, including the viewpoint and motivation of the source, and seek out multiple sources.  The public is best served by thinking critically about their own assumptions and biases, and how a foreign adversary may try to manipulate them.

One of the best defenses against disinformation is a free and transparent news media environment, which is why the United States actively engages with our allies and partners to strengthen independent media.  One focus is on building global resiliency to disinformation through support for investigative journalism and related training.

Together, an informed citizenry, independent media, social media platforms, civil society, and governments can overcome disinformation without having to compromise our values or ways of life.

That is the message I hope our regional partners take away from this workshop. By exchanging ideas and working together, our democracies can overcome the disinformation outside forces deploy to subvert our shared values.

Thank you.