How to Fight Misinformation Without Censorship

Jacob Mchangama in Persuasion: 2024 is a pivotal year for the future of global democracy, as some two billion—about half the adult population of the globe—will have the chance to vote. 

Even though more people will cast a ballot in 2024 than any previous year, the prevailing mood seems more fearful than celebratory. In the words of Darrell M. West, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, the combination of online influence campaigns and artificial intelligence has created a “perfect storm of disinformation” that threatens free and fair elections. This type of pessimism has led several open societies—including those of the European Union—to adopt illiberal measures such as banning foreign media outlets and cracking down on social media platforms. The rise of generative artificial intelligence has only heightened the sense of emergency.

Yet little attention has been paid to the fact that Team Democracy triumphed in one of 2024’s most decisive battles by staying true to its liberal values.

Taiwan is an instructive example of a young and vibrant democracy that views freedom of expression as a competitive advantage against authoritarian censorship and propaganda. In large part, Taiwan’s response to China’s aggressive disinformation campaigns has relied on a model where organic and civil society-led initiatives serve as first responders and heavy-handed government intervention is treated with great skepticism. Taiwan’s success provides a proof of concept that should prompt a change of course in European democracies, which increasingly believe that preserving their open societies requires sacrificing free expression.

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