The Internet as a Liberating Technology: The Use of the Internet Among Gay Communities in Taiwan

Chung-Chuan Yang
Yuan Se Institute of Technology, Taiwan


Homosexuality is taboo in Taiwanese society. Most homosexuals are forced to stay in the closet. The mass media either completely shun this topic or take a straight perspective when reporting news about gay communities. As a result, homosexuals in Taiwan are forced to go underground. Although several gay pride or awareness activities are held in Taiwan, gay communities here, until now, have had no control over any television, radio, or cable channels to voice their concerns. The underrepresentation of gay communities in the mass media has led to several undesirable effects on news reporting: underrepresentation, stereotyping, bias in news selection, and lack of objectivity, accountability, and content diversity.

Although in the United States, ensuring that minorities have access to the media has become a vehemently debated topic in the communication and public policy fields, there are no such discussions in Taiwan. The road to gain access to the media can be long and treacherous. With the emergence of the Internet, gay communities have found an outlet in which to voice their opinions and in which they can form a strong sense of community among themselves. In reality, the Internet has partially achieved what mass media have failed to do--allowing the voices of homosexuals to be heard on an equal and objective basis. With the Internet, homosexuals have assumed the control of presenting their opinions in the marketplace of ideas without the mediation of reporters and existing media organizations. Currently, there are more than 13,000 Usenet newsgroups on the Internet dedicated to addressing the concerns of various segments in society (i.e., sexuality, religion, political viewpoints, races, etc.). More than 400 computer bulletin boards can be found in Taiwan. The Internet may become what Ithiel de Sola Pool called the technology of freedom for the gay communities in Taiwan.

This paper examines (1) the status of gay access to the mass media in Taiwan, (2) the limitations of existing regulatory models for ensuring gay access to the media, (3) the status of gay BBSs and Web sites in Taiwan, (4) the use of the Internet among homosexuals in Taiwan, and (5) the factors that influence gays' use of the Internet. This paper employs a combination of extensive literature review, focus group, and in-depth interview methods to collect data for answering these questions. Findings from this study can be used to understand how and why homosexuals in Taiwan use the Internet. They can also show if the Internet has empowered this group. In terms of public policy implications, this paper will provide background for government to ensure minorities access to the new communication technologies. It will provide government with an alternative regulatory model for ensuring minorities access to the media.