Taiwan president fined for Facebook post

President Ma Ying-jeou outside his campaign headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan on January 14.

Story highlights

  • Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou was fined US$16,666 for posting on his Facebook campaign page on election day
  • Taiwan's Central Election Commission said the post violated the rule against campaigning on election day
  • Ma's second term as president begins on Sunday
Ma, who won re-election to a second term earlier this year, was on Wednesday ordered to pay T$500,000 (US$16,666) by the island's Central Election Commission for posting a message to his Facebook campaign page on the day of the election.
The message, which quoted Ma's speech from a day earlier urging supporters to vote for him, was deemed to violate Taiwan's rule barring candidates from campaigning on the day of the election. His opponent Tsai Ing-wen was fined T$300,000 for not having signed some of her campaign material.
The February elections were notable partly for the greatly expanded use of social media by both campaigns. Ma's campaign slogan, "Taiwan, Bravo!" is, in Chinese, a reference to Facebook's 'Like' button. Tsai's Google+ page, meanwhile, became a platform for discussion between her supporters and Chinese netizens.
For Ma, whose second term begins Sunday, the half-a-million dollar fine is probably the least of his worries. Ma had wanted to push through sweeping reforms now that he does not face the pressures of re-election, but instead finds himself facing a revolt from within his own Kuomintang party.
A number of KMT legislators have in recent days openly criticized Ma's new policies initiatives, which are proving unpopular, or at least controversial, among the public. These include the proposal of a capital gains tax, raising electricity and petrol prices, and further opening Taiwan's market to US beef imports.
Ma faced similar internal pressures when he was first elected in 2008, but gradually managed to assert control over his party -- it remains to be seen whether he can do the same again.