A certain online community carries the slogan, “To make reporting offenses as simple as breathing,” with the goal of helping the public report traffic violations more smoothly. On the other side of the coin, disagreements come in the form of the fan page “Against Malicious Informers,“ with the aim of exposing various forms of retaliatory reporting and stalking behavior. Public online sparring between “reporting“ and “against reporting“ has reached fever pitch in recent years. When news of amendments to laws related to public reports of traffic violations broke a few years ago, the subject once again entered into heated discussion.
According to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, the public reporting system implemented in 1997 can be said to endow the informer with the most power out of all the countries in the world. So, what’s wrong with people reporting offenses enthusiastically and participating boldly in public affairs? Why is there a need to amend the law?
With the popularization of smart devices, instances of excessive or targeted reporting behavior have increased. The original good intentions of opening up to allow public participation in supporting police forces have gradually created negative effects. To list examples: online confrontation between the reporting and reported parties create an atmosphere of animosity, regular police duties are crowded out due to time spent on investigating public report cases, and civil servants are receiving public petitions against inappropriate reporting behavior, as calls to reexamine the system are growing louder.
Therefore, it is necessary to raise the “quality” of public participation, as opposed to quantity, and utilize public and private cooperation more effectively to prevent major traffic violations. To this end, we assisted the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in holding a conference, extending invitations widely to social media platforms “Expert Informers“ and “Against Malicious Informers,” members of the public, front-line administrators, and legislators, to come together and discuss “effective” methods of reporting.
The public sector has always avoided putting up underdeveloped policies for public discussion, with concerns that they might be disparaged or misunderstood. This time, aside from making the bill public from an early stage, the views of various parties were also made public early to deepen the discussion, so that members of the public can prepare for the discussion. During the conference itself, the floor was open to physical and online attendees to pose questions directly, signifying a huge step forward in challenging the existing culture in public affairs.
In addition, the discussion on that day took place in groups. Parties with opposing views and contrasting roles were deliberately placed in the same group, so that everyone can listen to views or difficulties that they have never considered before, and enter into a relaxed conversation mediated by an experienced “table leader,” who consolidates and summarizes the views. As the live broadcast discussion was open to online participation, we also had dedicated personnel monitoring the “emotional fluctuations” in the comment section closely. When an online participant feels neglected by the floor or impatient, they immediately reply online, and try to speak directly to the online participant behind the camera as much as possible, to avoid creating a “watch party” atmosphere with a lack of interaction.
During the conference, some members of the public said that they were reported for merely stopping temporarily by the yellow line to drop off or pick up their child, or that residential areas were wholly demarcated by red lines, signaling an unsympathetic law that compels violations. There were also police officers who reported cases of targeted reporting behavior due to personal disputes, causing a waste of administrative resources, and making the public sector more wary of public participation instead. Through the conversation, each and every individual’s description of their experiences will help legislation to take better shape and be closer to life.
The conference was helmed by Li Chao-hsien from the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, who has been working tirelessly on the bill up until today. Once it is proposed to the Legislative Yuan, another ripple of discussion is certain to be ignited. However, his closing remarks after that conference have made me more convinced of the value of promoting public participation, “After considering the greatest ‘compromising solution,’ we are more convinced that ‘there is no best solution, only a better solution.’”