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foreign affairs essay questions

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Chapter 01 Essay Questions

1. Describe the three main contexts for explaining foreign policy formation: the individual decisions context, the state policies context, and the global context. Are they all equally useful for explaining any one specific foreign policy decision? Why or why not? (Learning Objective 4)

2. What challenges does territorial sovereignty face in today’s globalized world? (Learning Objectives 1, 4)

3. Choose a European Union member state and use it as an example to demonstrate how a state limits its sovereignty in international politics. (Learning Objective 1)

4. What are the key aspects of critical thinking that need to be applied to the study of international relations? (Learning Objective 4)

5. Pick one of the key problems facing the world and write an essay in which you discuss the important characteristics of the problem and how the problem could be addressed. (Learning Objective 3)

Select your Country

Help inform the discussion

2021 International Affairs Essay Competition winners

Read the entries from four UVA undergraduates

The Virginia Journal of International Affairs , the University of Virginia’s only undergraduate foreign affairs research journal, partnered with the Miller Center and the International Relations Organization to sponsor an undergraduate essay competition examining lessons from past presidencies and history in general to inform the debate on contemporary policy challenges in international relations. All UVA undergraduates were invited to participate and responded to the following prompt:

In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden stated that “America is back.” Should the future ofAmerica’s foreign policy be one that embraces multilateralism or should it take a more unilateral approach? Use historical examples or case studies from prior presidential administrations to make your argument about the present. 

Winner: Caitlin Tierney

American exceptionalism as asymmetric multilateralism.

For four years, Trump’s unilateralist, protectionist, populist and “America First” policies shocked citizens of the United States and the world. After seeing the damage unilateralist foreign policy (especially when in the wrong hands) can cause, U.S. democrats long to return to the generally multilateral foreign policy approach that presidents have adhered to since WWII. Although a leader of many major international organizations, America’s unique position of arranging the post-WWII world order has created an asymmetric form of multilateralism that nominally is fully participatory and equal, but in fact gives favor to its founder. President Biden believes that “America is back” as the leader in the international field, but America cannot so easily return to this seat of preference and should assess that previous “American multilateralism” may verge closer to asymmetry or even partial unilateralism than the U.S. may be willing to admit.

President Biden simply claiming that “America is back” as a world leader is a hollow cry until actions follow. Fortunately, on day one of his term, Biden reentered key agreements such as the WHO, UNHRC, New START and Paris Agreement with more to follow. This gesture is important to signify an ideological change from the previous administration and agreement to multinational cooperation. The foundation of trust in the U.S., however, cracked with the election and actions of President Donald Trump, and, although Biden may be able to repair the rift, there will always be a weak spot of mistrust and uncertainty.


First runner-up: Robert McCoy

“america is back” isn’t enough: keeping unilateralism from droning on.

So far, President Biden’s assertions that “America is back” are proving honest. Undoing some of Trump’s unilateralist decisions, Biden has rejoined the Paris Climate agreement and United Nations Human Rights Council and halted the U.S.’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization. The Associated Press reported that Biden filling “his State Department with . . . veterans of the Obama administration” indicates a “desire to return to a more traditional foreign policy.” Many are relieved by this return to normalcy; Dr. Sana Vakil of Chatham House has said, “I’m quite optimistic about the gang getting back together again.”

But even the pre-Trump era of foreign policy Biden seems to be reviving was far from a halcyon period of multilateralism and adulation from the international community. In fact, a 2013 WIN/Gallup International poll conducted in 65 countries revealed the U.S. to be the international community’s “overwhelming choice…for the country that represents the greatest threat to peace in the world today.” A 2012 Pew Research Center poll of 20 countries found that, “[a]cross much of the globe, people continue to believe the U.S. acts unilaterally in world affairs.”

Second runner-up: Mithra Dhinakaran

“america is back” as it should be.

American multilateralism has swung on a pendulum since the birth of our nation. The question of whether to put America “first” or cooperate with other countries has always racked our foreign policy. From our involvement in foreign wars to our adoption of protectionist laws, the United States’ patterns of cooperation with global partners have had extraordinary ramifications on the whole world. While unilateralism has helped secure U.S. interests in some respects, multilateralism is the only way the current administration can effectively implement foreign policy in the modern globalized world. The future of America’s foreign policy should embrace multilateralism for several reasons. First, the U.S. is surrendering its share of global power and requires allies to support its policies. Second, the globalized economy compels political cooperation to reflect economic partnerships. Third, the U.S. must act in conjunction with other countries to tackle global issues.

First, while the U.S. may have been able to strongman other nations into acquiescence in the past, the U.S. no longer has the same political and economic capital. Similar to our experience with the Soviet Union in the Cold War, we face a rising superpower that seeks to assert its influence where the U.S. has fallen behind. If China succeeds in winning allies in the Global South, the U.S. will not be able to unilaterally challenge and overcome that influence. The U.S. should focus on strengthening ties with countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to build a stronger front. An example of the success of this strategy in the past is the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Honorable mention: Kirstin O'Donoghue

Recreating american foreign policy: replacing unilateralist nationalism with inclusive multilateralism.

President Biden assumed the presidency amidst several crises — the devastating COVID 19 pandemic, increasingly tense relations with China, and a persistent climate crisis. Each administration has confronted its own seemingly insurmountable challenges, and Biden’s predecessors have all left in their wakes mistakes and successes which defined the tenability of their approaches. Trump’s nationalism and America First doctrine wreaked havoc upon American foreign policy and have left foreign policy experts advocating for a return to American diplomacy and a restoration of our foreign policy. Though Biden’s election was a pivotal first step toward revitalizing American foreign policy and reforming our reputation on the global stage, Trump’s isolationist scars have not healed. Rather than a restoration, America is in desperate need of a newly constructed inclusive multilateral approach that involves historically suppressed actors from a variety of regions, civilian populations, and non-governmental organizations.

In making suggestions for Biden’s foreign policy approach, one must not fall prey to the myth that the United States before Trump was consistently a gregarious multilateral actor, sacrificing its domestic interests for the global good. Wilsonian multilateralism stood in stark contrast against Nixon’s unilateral retreat from Bretton Woods and Reagan’s termination of UNESCO. Obama’s retrenchment approach to foreign policy mirrored most closely those of Eisenhower and Nixon, which advocated a reduced commitment of U.S. resources and a greater share of the burden placed on allies. Any moral high ground that we possessed before Trump’s nationalist approach, even if this perception was founded upon shaky ground, we have lost.

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National High School Essay Contest

You are here, in this section, applications have closed for the 2024 essay contest.

foreign affairs essay questions

2024 Essay Contest Topic

This year, AFSA celebrates the 100th anniversary of the United States Foreign Service. Over the last century, our diplomats and development professionals have been involved in groundbreaking events in history – decisions on war and peace, supporting human rights and freedom, creating joint prosperity, reacting to natural disasters and pandemics and much more. As AFSA looks back on this century-long history, we invite you to join us in also looking ahead to the future. This year students are asked to explore how diplomats can continue to evolve their craft to meet the needs of an ever-changing world that brings fresh challenges and opportunities to the global community and America’s place in it.

Over the past 100 years the Foreign Service has faced a multitude of challenges such as world war, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, humanitarian disasters, global pandemics, and economic crises. In a 1,000-1,500-word essay please identify what you believe will be the biggest challenge to face the Foreign Service in the future. The essay will describe this challenge and clearly define how American diplomats can help mitigate it.

Successful essays will use past or current diplomatic efforts to support what you believe to be the best course of action to tackle this obstacle.

For more information on Essay Contest Rules and Guidance please visit this page . For additional resources and to view the 2024 Study Guide please visit this page .

AFSA Announces the Winner of the 2023 High School Essay Contest

foreign affairs essay questions

The American Foreign Service Association’s national high school essay contest completed its twenty-third year with over 400 submissions from 44 states.

Three randomized rounds of judging produced this year’s winner, Justin Ahn, a junior from Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts. In his essay, “Mending Bridges: US-Vietnam Reconciliation from 1995 to Today,” Justin focuses on the successful reconciliation efforts by the Foreign Service in transforming US-Vietnam relations from post-war tension to close economic and strategic partnership.

Justin traveled to Washington in AUgust 2023, where he met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. He also received a full tuition scholarship to an educational voyage with Semester at Sea.

Niccolo Duina was this year’s runner-up. He is a senior at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas. Niccolo attended the international diplomacy program of the National Student Leadership Conference in summer 2023.

There were eight honorable mentions:

  • Santiago Castro-Luna – Chevy Chase, Maryland
  • Dante Chittenden – Grimes, Iowa
  • Merle Hezel – Denver, Colorado
  • Adarsh Khullar – Villa Hills, Kentucky
  • Nicholas Nall – Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Ashwin Telang – West Windsor, New Jersey
  • Himani Yarlagadda – Northville, Michigan
  • Sophia Zhang – San Jose, California

Congratulations! We thank all students and teachers who took the time to research and become globally engaged citizens who care about diplomacy, development, and peacebuilding.

If you are not graduating this year, please consider submitting another essay for next year’s contest. The new prompt will be published in fall 2023.


AFSA collects your information for this contest and for AFSA partners. You may be signed up to receive updates or information from AFSA and our partners. You will receive confirmation from AFSA that your submission has been received and a notification if you are the winner or an honorable mention in June . You may also receive a message from our sponsor regarding their program offerings.


foreign affairs essay questions

Students whose parents are not in the Foreign Service are eligible to participate if they are in grades nine through twelve in any of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories, or if they are U.S. citizens attending high school overseas. Students may be attending a public, private, or parochial school. Entries from home-schooled students are also accepted. Previous first-place winners and immediate relatives of directors or staff of AFSA, NLSC and Semester at Sea are not eligible to participate. Previous honorable mention recipients are eligible to enter. $2,500 to the writer of the winning essay, in addition to an all-expense paid trip to the nation’s capital from anywhere in the U.S. for the winner and his or her parents, and an all-expense paid educational voyage courtesy of Semester at Sea.

The winner's school also receives a donation of 10 copies of AFSA's Inside a U.S. Embassy: Diplomacy at Work

foreign affairs essay questions

The Fund for American Diplomacy is AFSA's 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports AFSA’s outreach goals. AFSA National High School Essay contest is AFSA’s main outreach initiative to high school students. We appreciate your willingness to contribute. Rest assured that your contribution will be put to good use. Donations to the FAD are fully tax deductible.

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foreign affairs essay questions

FSOT Practice Test

Prepare for your test with realistic questions.

The Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) is required of anyone who is interested in working as a Foreign Service Officer of any kind. Whether you want to work in the consulate, diplomacy, politics, or any other department, taking this test will be a necessary step on your career path.

Click “Start Test” above to take a free FSOT practice test!

FSOT Eligibility

To be eligible to take the FSOT, you must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • You must be no younger than 20 and no older than 59 on the day you register to take the exam
  • You must be no younger than 21 and no older than 60 on the day you are appointed as a Foreign Service Officer
  • You must be a US citizen on the day you submit your registration package
  • You must be available for worldwide assignments

FSOT Exam Outline

The FSOT contains 153 questions and one essay, and you will be given between 3 and 3.5 hours to complete the test.

The test is split into four sections.

Job Knowledge (60 questions)

The questions in this section will cover the following:

  • The US Constitution
  • The roles of congress in foreign affairs
  • The United States political system and how it affects government policy
  • Major events
  • National customs and culture
  • Social issues and trends
  • The influence that society has on foreign policy
  • Historical events
  • Developments
  • The impacts any or all of the above items may have on foreign policy
  • Understanding of the basic economic principles
  • Understanding the economic system of the United States
  • Understanding of basic math
  • Understanding of statistical procedure
  • General understanding of human behavior
  • Motivational strategies
  • Equal employment practices
  • Principles of effective communication
  • Public speaking
  • The goals and techniques of public diplomacy
  • Basic knowledge of word processing
  • Database basics
  • Spreadsheet basics
  • Email basics
  • Internet use basics

Situational Judgment (28 questions)

For each question in this section, there will be four or five possible responses for you to choose from. You will be asked to select the best and the worst possible responses.

These questions will evaluate your abilities regarding the following:

  • Adaptability
  • Decision-making
  • Operational effectiveness
  • Professional standards
  • Team-building
  • Workplace perceptiveness

English Expression (65 questions)

This section tests whether you can recognize a correctly written English sentence and will give you options to make corrections to the sentence if necessary. You will need to pay attention to details such as structure, grammar, punctuation, and spelling as you tackle this section.

For the FSOT essay, you will need to choose one of three topics to write 400-700 words about. Your essay should explain your position on the topic and explains your rationale for that position.

Check Out Mometrix's FSOT Study Guide

Get practice questions, video tutorials, and detailed study lessons

 Study Guide

FSOT Application

The first step to taking the test is to apply. To fill out your application, you will first need to create a Pearson VUE account online. After your account is established, you can complete your eligibility requirements, fill out your application form, and complete your personal narratives.

Personal Narratives

As part of your application, you are required to write six short essays that highlight the knowledge, skills, and abilities that you have.

  • Openness to dissent
  • Community service you have been involved in or institution building
  • Persuasion and negotiation skills
  • Representational skills
  • Written communication
  • Oral communication
  • Active listening
  • Public outreach
  • Foreign language skills
  • Performance management and evaluation
  • Management resources
  • Customer service
  • Information gathering and analysis skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Active learning
  • Leadership and management training
  • Understanding of US history
  • Understanding of the US government
  • Understanding of culture and application when dealing with other cultures
  • Knowledge and understanding of career track information that is relevant

Check Out Mometrix's FSOT Flashcards

Get complex subjects broken down into easily understandable concepts


FSOT Registration

The FSOT is offered three times a year and each testing window comes with its own registration window. These windows are as follows:

  • For tests given between June 2nd and June 9th, registration is open from May 2nd to May 30th.
  • For tests given between September 29th and October 6th, registration is open from August 29th to September 26th.
  • For tests given between February 2nd and February 9th, registration is open from January 2nd to January 30th.

You now have the option to take the FSOT at home using online proctoring. During registration, you will be given an option of where to take your exam. All you have to do is choose the online my-home or office option.

The fee to register is just $5, and that fee will be returned to you three weeks after you take the test. If you don’t show up to your test, however, you have to pay a $72 no-show fee.

In-person Testing

On the day of the test, you need to bring your admissions letter and a valid government-issued photo ID with you. If you are taking the exam at a consulate or embassy, you must use your US passport as your ID. Otherwise, a driver’s license, state ID, or military ID will also be accepted.

Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early and account for any possible delays like traffic or detours, as there will be no allowances made if you show up late.

Remote Testing

The remote version of the exam is offered through Pearson Vue’s online testing system. You will need to ensure that your equipment meets the requirements before you test at home:

  • You must have a desktop computer or laptop.
  • You are only allowed to use one computer monitor.
  • You must have a webcam and microphone.
  • You must have a reliable wired or wireless internet connection.
  • If you utilize any VPNs, they must be disabled for the entirety of the exam.

There are also certain rules you have to follow during the exam itself:

  • Your eyes must be facing forward.
  • You cannot cover or block the webcam.
  • No other person may be in the room with you during the test.
  • Your mobile phone, PDA, pagers, smartwatches, or other electronic devices must be left in another room while you are testing.
  • You cannot have wallets, purses, backpacks, or bags near you.
  • You cannot wear headphones or headsets.
  • You cannot have paper, pens, notepads, books, or printed material on your desk or nearby.
  • You cannot have an eyeglass case on your desk.
  • Firearms and weapons of any kind cannot be visible.
  • You cannot leave the room during the test.
  • You cannot move your lips or appear to speak out loud while testing.
  • Do not hide your face or cover your mouth during the exam.
  • Eating and smoking, including vaping, will not be allowed.
  • Do not wear a coat or jacket.

How the FSOT is Scored

You’ll be able to view your scores within three weeks of taking the test. The score required to pass the test can shift slightly from year to year due to the way that scores are calculated. However, you usually need a minimum cumulative score for the three multiple-choice sections of 154.

Then, you need at least a 6 out of a possible 12 points on the written essay. If you do achieve a 154 minimum on the first three sections, your essay won’t be graded. If you do not pass the exam, you have to wait a full 12 months before retaking it. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time (at least six months) to study and prepare for this test.

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Online FSOT Prep Course

If you want to be fully prepared, Mometrix offers an online Foreign Service Officer Test prep course. The course is designed to provide you with any and every resource you might want while studying. The FSOT course includes:

  • Review Lessons Covering Every Topic
  • 1,700+ Foreign Service Officer Test Practice Questions
  • More than 900 Electronic Flashcards
  • Over 180 Instructional Videos
  • Money-back Guarantee
  • Free Mobile Access

The Foreign Service Officer Test prep course is designed to help any learner get everything they need to prepare for their FSOT exam. Click below to check it out!

How many questions are on the FSOT?

There are 153 multiple-choice questions and one essay.

How long is the FSOT?

The time limit is 3.5 hours.

How much does the FSOT cost?

There is a temporary $5 fee that will be refunded after you take the test.

What is a passing score for the FSOT?

To pass the FSOT, you will need a combined score of at least 154.

foreign affairs essay questions

By Peter Rench

Peter Rench joined Mometrix in 2009 and serves as Vice President of Product Development, responsible for overseeing all new product development and quality improvements. Mr. Rench, a National Merit Scholar, graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in mathematics from Texas A&M University.

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by Mometrix Test Preparation | This Page Last Updated: March 4, 2024

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Click here for 20% off of Mometrix FSOT online course. Use code: SFSOT20

FSO Essay Simulator

FSOT Practice Essay Question Simulators (2018 Update)

The Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) practice essay simulators were created to help applicants pass the essay section of the FSOT.

If you would like to go directly to the basic practice simulator, the link follows:

FSOT Essay Simulator Basic

If you would like to utilize the pro version, and multiple prompts, please follow this link:

FSOT Essay Section Pro

If you would like to know a little more about its creation, and the two versions that exist, then read on.

I created the initial simulator to help solve some problems I was facing when trying to practice the essay portion of the FSOT.

First, knowing the question ahead of time.

When you are taking the FSOT, you have no idea what the question will be. There are subject areas and discussion topics you can prepare for, but there is no way of determining what prompts you will be asked. The only time you know what you are supposed to answer is when the prompts first appear on the screen.

Practicing for the essay portion, you run into the problem of evaluating the question ahead of time. Even if it is just a minute before you begin writing, you are already “cheating the system”. You see, as soon as the prompts become viewable you immediately begin to formulate a plan and an argument – defeating the purpose of the essay portion of the FSOT.

Need : prompts to appear without prior knowledge.

Second, typing up the essay in Word or a plain-text writing document (Notepad, Notes, etc.).

We have gotten so used to using Word (or a similar product) that we take for granted what it does automatically: capitalizing the first letter of the first word after a sentence, checking for spelling mistakes, providing grammar advice, and so forth. During the test, these features are not provided for you. If you do not practice with a program that does not utilize these features, it will slow you down during the testing period as you quickly realize that these helpful shortcuts are not functional.

You could use Notepad to practice, but the interface is too basic.

Need : a way to write without spell check, grammar check, and for the interface to be slightly better than Notepad.

Third, a stopwatch and 2,800 character limit.

When I practiced, I would tell myself I had 25-30 minutes and that I could not go over this time limit. Most of the time, I kept myself honest, but sometimes I bent my rule by a few seconds so I could fix a grammar mistake I had just seen.

Now this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but the whole point of practicing for the test is conditioning. I want to be prepared as much as possible and bending a rule does not assist me.

Additionally, the timer needs to appear on the screen, so I am aware of the dwindling limit. Using my phone or watch is possible, but phones usually go to standby mode during long countdowns (not to mention they aren’t allowed during testing).

Additionally, a character limit is required. The essay is limited to 2,800 characters including spaces and punctuation.

Need : an auto locking mechanism after 25-30 minutes, a timer to appear on the screen, and for the text area to be limited to 2,800 characters (and for it to show visually).

The Simulators

I took the requirements I listed above and created two essay simulators! They both have similar interfaces, but differ in the testing requirements.

The first simulator parallels how the FSO applicant will be asked to complete the essay section today. Specifically, you are provided with three prompts, have seven minutes to choose one of the three topics and write an outline, and then 25 minutes to write a response. 

The second simulator parallels how the FSO applicants was tested on the essay section of the FSOT. Specifically, you are provided with just one prompt, no other choices, and you have 30 minutes to answer.

The simulators are fantastic in that they are very similar to the actual testing experience!

Additionally,  I’ve also incorporated a few goodies I think you will enjoy.

First, there are many prompts! There are currently over 25 prompts available for each simulator, but my goal is to have over 50 soon. 

Second, the prompts are all random! The likelihood of being asked the same set of prompts is very low. If you do, you just need to refresh the page and you should receive a brand new set of prompts.

Third, once you submit, you can quickly select what you have written and paste it in a grammar checking program. I suggest Word or Grammarly , a powerful spelling and grammar checking online software (seriously this program has caught more grammer mistakes than Word).

Check it out!

FSOT Essay Simulator Pro

Wrapping up and a Special Question!

Overall, the pro version of the simulators are a great tool to study for the essay portion of the FSOT, and I know you find them helpful! If you have any suggestions on how it can improve please write a comment below or contact me!

If you like it, then please share (email and social media buttons to the left) with others and let me know in the comments!

One of my goals is to not only to become a Foreign Service Officer but to also help others accomplish this objective. This is the main reason I created these simulators, to assist other applicants.

Again, after searching online, I did not find a FSOT essay simulator and decided to build it.

There are websites out there that will prompt you with questions you might find on the Job Knowledge section, but not the English Expression section, and not the Essay section, that is until now.

Thank you, and I look forward to your feedback!

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  • A Research Guide
  • Research Paper Topics

25 Foreign Policy Research Paper Topics

25 foreign policy topics for a successful paper.

  • Foreign policy and the role of propaganda in it
  • Foreign policy of Japan
  • Foreign policy of People’s Republic of Korea
  • Foreign policy in the age of globalization
  • Colonisation and the relations between former colonies and metropoly
  • Weapons of mass destruction as instrument of foreign policy
  • The foreign policy of President Trump
  • The importance of diplomacy in the foreign policy
  • Can terrorism be controllable instrument of foreign policy?
  • Foreign policy of USA and USSR during the Cold War
  • The idea of “Global Democracy”
  • Foreign policy and its dependance of resources of country
  • What makes the country strong enough to be a powerful player on the global arena?
  • Foreign policy of USA
  • Foreign policy of EU
  • Foreign policy of Russia
  • Protecting human rights and the foreign policy
  • Case study of Fashoda Incident
  • Yalta Conference
  • The changes in the foreign policy of China in the last decade
  • The loudest foreign policy events in 2018
  • Dictatorships and the similarities in their foreign policy
  • The changes in the foreign policy of the USA after the tragedy of September 11th
  • Military intervention as an instrument of the foreign policy
  • Humanitarian aid as an instrument of the foreign policy

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Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program

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Tips on Preparing a Competitive Application

The Pickering Fellowship Selection Panel judges each applicant based on a variety of different criteria. It seeks individuals who show clear interest in a Foreign Service career with the U.S. Department of State, along with a strong academic background, a commitment to service, leadership skills, financial need for graduate school, diverse interests in areas such as international affairs and government, cultural sensitivity, writing skills, and an ability to demonstrate resilience. A good application introduces the individual to the panel and shows his/her unique motivations, experiences, accomplishments, and goals for a Foreign Service career. Thus, there is no specific formula for preparing a competitive application, as each applicant is unique. However, below are a few tips.

1) Review all application requirements for the fellowship to ensure you are eligible and prepared. 

Applicants should review all requirements upfront at the Pickering Program website ( ).  The program has no flexibility on core eligibility requirements such as U.S. citizenship, cumulative GPA, and plans to attend a two-year graduate program at a U.S. based institution .  Applicants should make a plan to complete all aspects of the application on time. This will require steps such as securing letters of recommendation and transcripts, preparing graduate school applications, collecting financial data, and writing a statement of interest. The FAQ section of the website can answer many application questions.

2) Clearly explain in your statement of interest your motivations for applying for the fellowship and identify the background, experiences, skills, and motivation that you believe will make you successful in the Foreign Service.

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Peer Reviewed

US-skepticism and transnational conspiracy in the 2024 Taiwanese presidential election

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Taiwan has one of the highest freedom of speech indexes while it also encounters the largest amount of foreign interference due to its contentious history with China. Because of the large influx of misinformation, Taiwan has taken a public crowdsourcing approach to combatting misinformation, using both fact-checking ChatBots and public dataset called CoFacts. Combining CoFacts with large-language models (LLM), we investigated misinformation across three platforms (Line, PTT, and Facebook) during the 2024 Taiwanese presidential election. We found that most misinformation appears within China-friendly political groups and attacks US-Taiwan relations through visual media like images and videos. A considerable proportion of misinformation does not question U.S. foreign policy directly. Rather, it exaggerates domestic issues in the United States to create a sense of declining U.S. state capacity. Curiously, we found misinformation rhetoric that references conspiracy groups in the West.

Program in Quantitative Social Science, Dartmouth College, USA

Department of Political Science, University of Nevada Las Vegas, USA

Department of Computer Science, Barnard College, USA

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Research Questions

  • What are the misinformation narratives surrounding the election in Taiwan and how do they target international relations with the United States?
  • What geographical or temporal patterns emerge from misinformation data?
  • Who are the targets of these misinformation narratives and through what modalities?

Essay Summary

  • We leveraged a dataset of 41,291 labeled articles from Line, 911,510 posts from Facebook, and 2,005,972 posts and comments from PTT to understand misinformation dynamics through topic modeling and network analysis.
  • The primary form of misinformation is narratives that attack international relations with the United States (henceforth referred to as US-skepticism), specifically referencing the economy, health policy, the threat of war through Ukraine, and other U.S. domestic issues.
  • Temporal and spatial evidence suggests VPN-based coordination, focused on U.S. issues and addresses.
  • Misinformation is most common among pan-Blue and ROC identity groups on social media and is spread through visual media. These groups share many themes with conspiracy groups in Western countries.
  • Our study shows the prevalence of misinformation strategies using visual media and fake news websites. It also highlights how crowdsourcing and advances in large-language models can be used to identify misinformation in cross-platform workflows.


According to Freedom House, Taiwan has one of the highest indices for free speech in Asia (Freedom House, 2022). Additionally, due to its contentious history with China, it receives significant foreign interference and misinformation, especially during its presidential elections. Due to the large influx of dis- and misinformation, Taiwan has developed many strategies to counter misleading narratives, including fact-checking ChatBots on its most popular chatroom app (Chang et al., 2020). Under this information environment, the 2024 Taiwanese presidential election emerged as one of the most divisive elections in Taiwan’s history, featuring at one point a doubling of presidential candidates in a typically two-party race, from two to four. As such, Taiwan is regarded as a “canary for disinformation” against elections in 2024, as a first indicator to how foreign interference may take place in other democracies (Welch, 2024).

In this paper, we study the misinformation ecosystem in Taiwan starting a year prior to the election. First, our findings highlight the interaction between misinformation and international relations. As was reported in The Economist and The New York Times , a considerable portion of the misinformation spread in Taiwan before the 2024 election is about US-skepticism, which aims at undermining the reputation of the United States among Taiwanese people (“China is flooding Taiwan with disinformation,” 2023; Hsu, Chien, and Myers, 2023). This phenomenon is significant because it does not target specific candidates or parties in the election but may indirectly influence the vote choice between pro- and anti-U.S. parties. Given the US-China global competition and the Russia-Ukraine ongoing conflict, the reputation of the United States is crucial for the strength and reliability of democratic allies (Cohen, 2003). Hence, it is not surprising that misinformation about the United States may propagate globally and influence elections across democracies. However, our findings surprisingly show that US-skepticism also includes a considerable number of attacks on U.S. domestic politics. Such content does not question the U.S. foreign policy but undermines the perceived reliability and state capacity of the United States. Here, s tate capacity is defined as whether a state is capable of mobilizing its resources to realize its goal, which is conceptually different from motivation and trust.

US-skepticism is commonly characterized as mistrusting the motivations of the United States, as illustrated in the Latin American context due to long histories of political influence (see dependency theory; Galeano, 1997), but our findings suggest that perceived U.S. state capacity is also an important narrative. As most foreign disinformation arises from China, this indicates a greater trend where authoritarian countries turn to sharp power tactics to distort information and defame global competitors rather than winning hearts and minds through soft power. Sharp power refers to the ways in which authoritarian regimes project their influence abroad to pierce, penetrate, or perforate the informational environments in targeted countries (Walker, 2018). In Taiwan’s case, China may not be able to tell China’s story well, but can still influence Taiwanese voters by making them believe that the United States is declining. Our findings suggest that future work analyzing the topics and keywords of misinformation in elections outside the United States should also consider the US-skepticism as one latent category, not just the politicians and countries as is common with electoral misinformation (Tenove et al., 2018). These findings are corroborated by narratives identified by a recent report including drug issues, race relations, and urban decay (Microsoft Threat Intelligence, 2024).

Additionally, our research investigates both misinformation and conspiracy theories, which are closely related. Whereas misinformation is broadly described as “false or inaccurate information” (Jerit & Zhao, 2020), a conspiracy theory is the belief that harmful events are caused by a powerful, often secretive, group. In particular, conspiracy communities often coalesce around activities of “truth-seeking,” embodying a contrarian view toward commonly held beliefs (Enders et al., 2022; Harambam, 2020; Konkes & Lester, 2017). Our findings also provide evidence of transnational similarities between conspiracy groups in Taiwan and the United States. Whereas the domestic context has been explored (Chen et al., 2023; Jerit & Zhao, 2020), the intersection of partisanship and conspiracy groups as conduits for cross-national misinformation flow deserves further investigation.

Second, our findings reemphasize that an IP address is not a reliable criterion for attributing foreign intervention.  Previous studies on Chinese cyber armies show that they use a VPN for their activities on Twitter (now X) (Wang et al., 2020) and Facebook (Frenkel, 2023). Commonly known as the Reddit of Taiwan, PTT is a public forum in Taiwan that by default contains the IP address of the poster. Our analysis of PTT located a group of accounts with US IP addresses that have the same activity pattern as other Taiwan-based accounts. Therefore, it is likely that these accounts use VPN to hide their geolocation. Our results provide additional evidence that this VPN strategy also appears on secondary and localized social media platforms. Our results suggest that the analysis of the originating location of misinformation should not be based entirely on IP addresses.

Third, our findings show that text is far from the only format used in the spread of misinformation. A considerable amount of misinformation identified on Facebook is spread through links (47%), videos (21%), and photos (15%). These items may echo each other’s content or even feature cross-platform flow. Proper tools are needed to extract and juxtapose content from different types of media so that researchers can have a holistic analysis of the spread and development of misinformation (Tucker et al., 2018). Such tools are urgent since mainstream social media has adopted and highly encouraged short videos—a crucial area for researchers to assess how misinformation spreads across platforms in the upcoming year of elections. This understanding is also important for fact-check agencies because they must prepare for collecting and reviewing information on various topics found in multiple media types across platforms. Crowdsourcing, data science, expert inputs, and international collaboration are all needed to deal with multi-format misinformation environments.

With prior studies showing that the aggregated fact checks (known as wisdom of the crowds) perform on par with expert ratings (see Arechar et al., 2023; Martel et al., 2023), our case study also evidences how crowdsourcing and LLM approaches can not only quickly fact-check but also summarize larger narrative trends. In Taiwan, this takes form of the CoFacts open dataset, which we use to identify misinformation narratives. CoFacts is a project initiated by g0v (pronounced “gov zero”), a civic hacktivism community in Taiwan that started in 2012. CoFacts started as a fact-checking ChatBot that circumvents the closed nature of chatroom apps, where users can forward suspicious messages or integrate the ChatBot into private rooms. These narratives are then sent to a database. Individual narratives are subsequently reviewed by more than 2,000 volunteers, including teachers, doctors, students, engineers, and retirees (Haime, 2022). As a citizen-initiated project, it is not affiliated with any government entity or party.

Crucially, these reviews provide valuable labels that are used to train AI models and fine-tune LLMs. The dataset is available open source on the popular deep-learning platform HuggingFace. Just as AI and automation can be used to spread misinformation (Chang, 2023; Chang & Ferrara, 2022; Ferrara et al., 2020; Monaco & Woolley, 2022), it can also help combat “fake news” through human-AI collaboration.

Finding 1: The primary form of misinformation  is narratives that attack international relations with the United States (henceforth referred to as US-skepticism), specifically referencing the economy, health policy, the threat of war through Ukraine, and other U.S. domestic issues.

The status quo between China and Taiwan is marked by Taiwan’s self-identification as a sovereign state, which is in contrast to China’s view of Taiwan as part of its territory under the “One China” policy. As brief context, China has claimed Taiwan as its territory since 1949, but the United States has helped maintain the status quo and peace after the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. After democratization in 1987, Taiwan’s politics have been dominated by a clear blue-green division. The blue camp is led by Kuomintang (Nationalist Party, KMT hereafter), the founding party of the Republic of China (ROC, the formal name of Taiwan’s government based on its constitution) who was defeated by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and retreated to Taiwan in 1949. The green camp is led by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which pursues revising the ROC Constitution and changing the country’s name to Taiwan. The political cleavage between the blue and green camps is dictated by Taiwan’s relationship with the PRC and the United States. The blue camp’s position is that the PRC and ROC are under civil war but belong to the same Chinese nation, and thus the blue camp appreciates military support from the United States while enhancing economic and cultural cooperation with the PRC. The green camp believes that the necessary conditions for Taiwan to be free and independent are to stand firmly with the United States and maintain distance from the PRC. After 2020, the two major camps’ insufficient attention to domestic and social issues caused the rise of nonpartisans and a third party, the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP or the white camp), which strategically avoids discussing foreign policies. In the 2024 election, the ruling DPP party (green) was reelected with 40% of votes for the third consecutive presidency (from 2016 to 2028), while KMT (blue) and TPP (white) received 33% and 26% of votes, respectively.

The U.S. “One China” policy since 1979 indicates that the United States opposes any change to the status quo unless it is solved peacefully. This has motivated the PRC to persuade Taiwanese citizens to support unification using misinformation targeted at China-friendly political groups, as the cost of unification would be greatly reduced if sufficient Taiwanese citizens opposed U.S. military intervention. This history between the United States and Taiwan serves as the foundation of US-skepticism. In the literature, US-skepticism in Taiwan is composed of two key psychological elements: trust and motivation (Wu & Lin, 2019; Wu, 2023). First, many Taiwanese no longer trust the United States after the United States switched diplomatic ties from Taiwan (ROC) to the PRC in 1979. Many blue-camp supporters doubt the commitment of the United States to send troops should China invade, per the Taiwan Relations Act (Wu & Lin, 2019). Second, Taiwanese citizens question Taiwan’s role as a proxy in a potential war with China instead of sincerely protecting democracy and human rights in Taiwan (Wu, 2023).

The CoFacts dataset contains 140,314 articles submitted by Line users, which are then fact-checked by volunteers as rumor (47%), not a rumor (21%), not an article (19%), and opinion (13%). Here, rumor is synonymous with misinformation. Using the CoFacts dataset, we trained a BERTopic model to identify 34 forms of misinformation and then ranked them by their overlap with the word “elections” in Mandarin Chinese (George & Sumathy, 2023; Nguyen et al., 2020). Table 1 shows the top nine narratives.

Many of these narratives are directly related to political parties or the democratic process. For instance, the highest-ranked topic is attacking the incumbent party (the DPP) at 18.1%, which contains 2,371 total posts. The subsequent misinformation topics focus on policy issues and specific narratives—international relations, issues of marriage and birth rate, vaccines, nuclear energy, biometrics, egg imports, and the war in Ukraine. These are known cleavage issues and overlap with the eight central concerns during the election cycle—economic prosperity, cross-strait affairs, wealth distribution, political corruption, national security, social reform/stability, and environmental protection (Achen & Wang, 2017; Achen & Wang, 2019; Chang & Fang, 2023).

We focus on the third type of misinformation, which is the relationship between Taiwan, the United States, and China. US-skepticism is not only the largest at 10,826 individual posts, but one flagged by journalists, policymakers, and politicians as one of the most crucial themes. This is a relatively new phenomenon in terms of proportion, which aims to sow distrust toward the United States (“China is flooding Taiwan with disinformation,” 2023). In contrast, questioning the fairness of process (i.e. ballot numbers) and policy positions (i.e. gay marriage) are common during elections. However, US-skeptical misinformation diverges in that there is no explicit political candidate or party targeted. By sampling the topic articles within this category and validating using an LLM-summarizer through the ChatGPT API, we identified three specific narratives:

(a) The United States and the threat of war: Ukraine intersects frequently in this topic, with videos of direct military actions. Example: “Did you hear former USA military strategist Jack Keane say the Ukrainian war is an investment. The USA spends just $66,000,000,000 and can make Ukraine and Russia fight…  Keane then mentions Taiwan is the same, where Taiwanese citizens are an ‘investment’ for Americans to fight a cheap war. The USA is cold and calculating, without any actual intent to help Taiwan!”

(b) Economic atrophy due to fiscal actions by the United States: These narratives focus on domestic policy issues in Taiwan such as minimum wage and housing costs. Example: “The USA printed 4 trillion dollars and bought stocks everywhere in the world, including Taiwan, and caused inflation and depressed wages. Be prepared!”

(c) Vaccine supply and the United States: While some narratives focus on the efficacy of vaccines, several describe the United States intentionally limiting supply during the pandemic. Example: “Taiwanese Dr. Lin is a leading scientist at Moderna, yet sells domestically at $39 per two doses, $50 to Israel. Taiwan must bid at least $60! The United States clearly does not value Taiwan.”

These narratives reveal a new element to US-skepticism: state capacity. As previously mentioned, state capacity is defined as whether a state is capable of mobilizing its resources to realize its goal. The Ukraine war and vaccine supply narratives both question the United States’ motivations in foreign policies and perceived trustworthiness. Meanwhile, the economic atrophy narrative is based on the United States’ domestic budgetary deficit and downstream impact on Taiwanese economy. These narratives frame U.S. state capacity as declining and imply that the United States could no longer realize any other commitment due to its lack of resources and capacity. The goal of such a narrative is to lower the Taiwanese audience’s belief that the United States will help. But such a narrative does not include keywords of its target group (e.g., Taiwan) nor the PCR’s goal (e.g., unification) and only works through framing and priming as an example of sharp power. 

The specific focus of misinformation narratives related to the United States is composed of Ukraine (28.8%), the economy and fiscal policies (33.1%), technology (25.2%), and vaccine supply (9.9%). Misinformation related to state capacity takes up approximately 52.4%, more than half of all narratives (see Figure A1, part a in the Appendix). In all narratives, political parties are only referenced 27.8% of the time with the DPP the primary target (26.2%), which is almost half of the proportion for state capacity. China is only mentioned in tandem with the United States in 38.4% of the posts (see Figure A1, part b in the Appendix).

Finding 2: Temporal and spatial evidence suggests VPN-based coordination, focused on U.S. issues and addresses.

Once we identified the top misinformation narratives using Line, we investigated information operations or coordination. Line is one of Taiwan’s most popular communication apps featuring chatrooms (similar to WhatsApp), with 83% usage. One limitation of Line is that although we can analyze message content, Line chatrooms can be seen as conversations behind “closed doors”—platforms cannot impose content moderation and researchers have no access to the users themselves nor to the private chatroom in which users engage with misinformation (Chang et al., 2020). PTT, on the other hand, provides a public forum-like environment in which users can interact. Figure 1 shows the co-occurrence network of users who post comments under the same forum. Each circle (node) represents a user who posts on PTT. If two users make mutual comments on more than 200 posts, then they are connected (form a tie). Intuitively, this means if two users are connected or “close” to each other by mutual connections, then they are likely coordinating or have extremely similar behaviors. The placement of the users reflects this and is determined by their connections.

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Using the Louvain algorithm (Traag, 2015), a common method to identify communities on social networks, five communities emerged from our dataset. Each community is colored separately, with clear clusters, except for teal which is more integrated. In particular, the yellow cluster is significantly separate from the others. This means they share significant activity amongst their own community, but less so with other communities. This suggests premeditated coordination rather than organic discussion, as the users would have to target the same post with high frequency. Prior studies have shown analyzing temporal patterns can provide insight into information operations. Specifically, overseas content farms often follow a regular cadence, posting content before peak hours in Taiwan on Twitter (Wang et al., 2020) and YouTube (Hsu & Lin, 2023).

To better understand the temporal dynamics on PTT, we plotted the distribution of posts and comments over a 24-hour period. Specifically, we focused on the top two countries by volume—Taiwan and the United States. Figure 2, part a shows the time of posting. Taiwan’s activity increases from 6 in the morning until it peaks at noon (when people are on lunch break), then steadily declines into the night. In contrast, posts from the United States peak at midnight and 8 a.m. Taipei time, which corresponds to around noon and 8 p.m. in New York, respectively. This provides an organic baseline as to when we might expect people to post.

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However, in Figure 2, part b, while the distribution for Taiwan (blue) remains unchanged, the peak for the United States (orange) occurs at the same time as Taiwan. One explanation is that users are responding to posts in Taiwan. The second is that users in Asia—potentially China—are using a VPN to appear as if they are in the United States. This coincides with a report by Meta Platforms that found large numbers of CCP-operated Facebook accounts and subsequently removed them (Frenkel, 2023).

The more curious issue is when considering the activity of the yellow group from Figure 1, the temporal pattern (green) shows a sharp increase in activity at 10 a.m., which then coincides with both the peaks for Taiwan (12) and the United States (22). The sudden burst of activity is consistent with prior findings on content farms from China, where posting behavior occurs when content farm workers clock in regularly for work (Wang et al., 2020). While it is difficult to prove the authenticity of these accounts, the structural and temporal aspects suggest coordination. Figure A2 in the appendix shows further evidence of coordination through the frequency distribution of counts for co-occurring posts. For the US-based group, a distribution akin to a power law appears, commonly found within social systems (Adamic & Huberman, 2000; Chang et al., 2023; Clauset et al., 2009). In contrast, the coordinated group features a significantly heavier tail, with a secondary, “unnatural,” peak at around 15 co-occurrences.

To better understand the content of these groups, Table A1 shows the summary of comments of each group and the originating post, using a large-language model for abstractive summarization (see Methods). We report the top points for comments and posts in Table A1. The coordinated community focuses on businessman Terry Gou, who considered running as a blue-leaning independent. The comments attack the incumbent DPP and their stance toward foreign policy. One popular post features President Tsai’s controversial meeting with Kevin McCarthy, then the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. When a journalist asked McCarthy if he would “invite President Tsai to Congress… or… Washington,” McCarthy replied, “I don’t have any invitation out there right now. Today we were able to meet her as she transits through America, I thought that was very productive.” While this was positively framed, the title of the post itself was translated as “McCarthy will not invite Tsai to the United States” (Doomdied, 2023). This takes on a common tactic in misinformation where statements are intentionally distorted to produce negative framings of a particular candidate.

Comments from U.S. IP addresses between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. focus on the potential alliance between the KMT and TPP. These posts are KMT-leaning with criticism toward both Lai and Ko, who are two oppositional candidates to the KMT. Some users argue that while the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is a negative force, the United States is not automatically a positive force, as the United States does not explicitly support Taiwan’s international recognition or economic integration. In general, both posts and comments express that Taiwan should not rely too heavily on either China or the United States. This echoes the element of trust in the US-skepticism from the historical experience between ROC and the United States.

Both the U.S.-based and coordinated groups appear as blue-leaning audiences. What differentiates the first and second case is clear evidence of misinformation in the former through inaccurate framing. While US-skepticism may be a valid political stance, if the ambient information environment contains inaccurate information, then the democratic deliberative process is at risk. The case of US-skepticism is also one where stance and truth-value are often conflated, which may influence the process of voter deliberation.

Finding 3: Misinformation is most common among pan-Blue and ROC identity groups on social media and is spread through visual media. These groups share themes with conspiracy groups in Western countries.

Lastly, we considered the groups in which misinformation is common and the way misinformation is delivered. To do so, we queried CrowdTangle using the titles and links from the CoFacts dataset specific to US-Taiwan relations. This yielded 4,632 posts from public groups. Table 2 shows the groups ranked by the total number of misinformation articles identified.

There are two themes to these groups. First, they are often pan-Blue media outlets ( CTI News ), politician support groups ( Wang Yo-Zeng Support Group ), and ROC national identity groups ( I’m an ROC Fan ). The second type is somewhat unexpected but extremely interesting; it consists of groups that espouse freedom of speech ( Support CTI News and Free Speech ) and truth-seeking ( Truth Engineering Taiwan Graduate School ), topics often regarded as conspiracies. These topics are reminiscent of those in the West, such as the rhetoric around “fake news” and “truthers,” and paint a transnational picture of how misinformation coalesces. The second largest group is Trump for the World , which supports a politician known to court conspiracy theory groups such as QAnon. These groups also serve as the “capacity” element of US-skepticism, implying that the United States is in trouble for its domestic issues and is not a reliable partner to Taiwan. Furthermore, these groups have sizable followings—ranging from 8,279 to 43,481. We show the mean, as the total number of members fluctuated over our one-year period.

Lastly, we found that the majority of misinformation contains some form of multimedia, such as video (36%) or photos (15%), as shown in Figure 3, part a. Only 1% is a direct status. This may be due to CrowdTangle not surfacing results from normal users, but the ratio of multimedia to text is quite high. This aligns with extant studies showing the growth of multimodal misinformation (Micallef et al., 2022) and also user behavior in algorithm optimization (Chang et al., 2022; Dhanesh et al., 2022; Pulley, 2020)—posts with multimedia tend to do better than posts with only text.

Moreover, 47% contain a URL. Figure 3, part b shows one of the top domains containing misinformation ( after filtering out common domains such as YouTube. The site is named “Beyond News Net” and is visually formatted like a legitimate news site to increase the perceived credibility of information (Flanagin & Metzger, 2007; Wölker & Powell, 2021). The ability to rapidly generate legitimate-looking news sites as a tactic for misinformation may become a challenge for both media literacy and technical approaches to fight misinformation.

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We utilized three unique misinformation datasets—Line, Facebook, and PTT—with dates between 01/12/2023 and 11/10/2023. The CoFacts dataset includes 140,193 received messages, 96,432 that have been labeled as misinformation, facts, opinion, or not relevant. Of this, 41,564 entries are misinformation. The CoFacts dataset is not only methodologically useful but exemplifies a crowd-sourced approach to fact-checking misinformation as an actual platform intervention. Moreover, it is public and transparent, allowing for replicability. Using a subset of articles and posts containing misinformation, we trained a topic model using BERTopic (Grootendorst, 2022). On a high level, using BERTopic involves five steps: 1) extract embeddings using a sentence transformer, 2) reduce dimensionality, 3) cluster reduced embeddings, 4) tokenize topics, and 5) create topic representation.

We conducted several trials, experimenting with parameters such as different sentence transformer models and minimum cluster sizes for the HDBSCAN clustering algorithm. The model used to extract topics for this paper utilized paraphrase-multilingual-MiniLM-L12-v2 for our sentence embedding model (Reimers & Gurevych, 2019), had a minimum cluster size of 80 for the clustering algorithm, and used tokenize_zh for our tokenizer. Our model yielded 34 topics. We also trained a model based on latent-Dirichlet allocation (LDA) (Blei et al., 2003), but found the BERTopic results to be more interpretable. We then labeled all messages to indicate whether they included reference to the election or not, and ranked the topics by their election-related percentage to measure electoral salience. For our subsequent analysis, we focused on topic 3 (see Table 1), which captures general discourse about the relations between the United States, China, and Taiwan.

The Facebook dataset was extracted using CrowdTangle. We queried posts containing links and headlines from topic 3. We also cross-sectioned these links and headlines with a general election-based dataset with 911,510 posts. This yielded a total of 4,632 of posts shared on public Facebook groups and 227,125 engagements. Due to privacy concerns, it is not possible to obtain private posts from users on their own Facebook timelines, private groups, or messages. However, public groups are a good proxy for general discourse, in addition to providing ethnic or partisan affiliations via their group name (Chang & Fang, 2023). In other words, while CoFacts provides the misinformation narratives, Facebook public groups give insight into the targets of misinformation.

Lastly, we scraped PTT using Selenium. Commonly known as the Reddit of Taiwan, PTT is unique in that it contains the IP address of the poster, though this could be shrouded by proxy farms or VPNs. First, we scraped all posts that contained reference to the United States and the election, which yielded 22,576 posts and 1,983,396 comments, all with IP addresses, addresses provided by PTT, and the time of posting. We expanded the scope of this analysis as we were interested in the general discourse directly related to the United States, and the geospatial and temporal patterns that arose. 

Due to the large amount of data, there are three general approaches we could have taken—local extractive summarization with LLMs, local abstractive summarization with LLMs, and server-based abstractive summarization (such as ChatGPT). Local extractive summarization is a method that embeds each of the input sentences and then outputs five of the most representative sentences. However, this approach is often too coarse, as it returns sentences with the highest centrality but does not summarize general themes across all the different comments or posts. On the other hand, abstractive summarization works by considering the entire context by ingesting many documents and then summarizing across them. This provides a more generalized characterization of key themes. However, the input size is the primary bottleneck as large-language models can only ingest so many tokens (or words), which also need to be held in memory—the case for our project, as we are summarizing more than 10,000 posts.

To circumvent these issues, we sampled the maximum number of posts or comments that could fit within 16,000 tokens and then made a query call using the ChatGPT API. This provided a summary based on a probabilistic sample of the posts and comments.

  • / Elections

Cite this Essay

Chang, H. C. H., Wang, A. H. E., & Fang Y. S. (2024). US-skepticism and transnational conspiracy in the 2024 Taiwanese presidential election. Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Misinformation Review .


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No funding has been received to conduct this research.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

No human subjects were included in this study.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that the original author and source are properly credited.

Data Availability

All materials needed to replicate this study are available via the Harvard Dataverse: . The Cofacts database is available on HuggingFace and Facebook via CrowdTangle per regulation of Meta Platforms.


H. C. would like to thank Brendan Nyhan, Sharanya Majumder, John Carey, and Adrian Rauschfleish for their comments. H. C. would like to thank the Dartmouth Burke Research Initiation Award.

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Hasan: Someone paid by BNP deployed at US State Dept briefings

  • The foreign minister was referring to Mushfiqul Fazal Ansarey
  • Asks questions to try to get negative answers, FM says


Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud Tuesday said there is someone “paid by BNP,” deployed in the US Department of State regular briefing, to ask questions purposefully to generate negative responses.

"There’s someone there who used to work for Khaleda Zia's press wing. He is paid by BNP. He asks questions purposefully to try and get negative answers about Bangladesh. He asks questions intentionally," the minister told reporters at Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU).

The foreign minister was referring to Mushfiqul Fazal Ansarey, former assistant press secretary to the then-prime minister Khaleda Zia.

Hasan made the remarks when his attention was drawn to him being misquoted at the latest US State Department briefing.

“Is the US considering reinstating the GSP facilities for Bangladeshi products, as Bangladeshi foreign minister told on Saturday, Assistant Secretary Donald Lu assured Washington would consider reinstating the GSP facilities for Bangladesh?" Ansarey's question reads.

On the GSP issue, the foreign minister said the US wants to help Bangladesh get it back when the program is reintroduced.

"I talked to the press based on facts and what is true," Hasan said, adding that Bangladesh and the US are working on the labour front to further improve the overall conditions in line with the US desire, and they want to give it back if the US reintroduces the GSP facility.

"After the meeting with the visiting Assistant Secretary Donald Lu, Bangladesh’s ruling prime minister advisor told the reporters that the White House and the State Departments are very much willing to remove the sanctions as the US imposed sanction on Rapid Action Battalion, for the extreme violation of human rights and extrajudicial killing. So he said that the State Department and White House are working to remove the sanctions," Ansarey said in another media briefing.

DRU President Syed Shukur Ali Shuvo and General Secretary Mohiuddin also spoke at the event.

FM: US informed Bangladesh about sanctions on Gen Aziz in advance

Us imposes sanctions on ex-army chief aziz, his family members, rizvi slams government over autorickshaw ban, bnp leader ishraque sent to jail, fm: no bangladeshi students severely injured in kyrgystan, bnp seeks strategic shift in anti-govt movement, one killed in upazila polls violence in cox's bazar, ‘canada's approach to bangladesh differs from that of us', human trafficking: climbing out of the depths of despair, buddha purnima on wednesday, gd filed over mp anar's disappearance.

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Iran – Death of President Ebrahim Raisi (20 May 2024)

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France extends its condolences to the Islamic Republic of Iran following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and those who were accompanying them.

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