Since August 2019, ProPublica has tracked more than 10,000 suspected fake Twitter accounts involved in a coordinated influence campaign with ties to the Chinese government. Among those are the hacked accounts of users from around the world that now post propaganda and disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak, the Hong Kong protests and other topics of state interest. They included a professor in North Carolina; a graphic artist and a mother in Massachusetts; a web designer in the U.K.; and a business analyst in Australia. (It is unclear whether the current fake account holders hacked the accounts themselves or purchased them from elsewhere.) Suspected Chinese operatives have stepped up their efforts in recent days, according to private messages shared with ProPublica, offering influential Chinese-speaking Twitter users cash for favorable posts.
These efforts appear to be aimed at disparate audiences outside the country. Most of the posts we found are in Chinese and appear aimed at influencing the millions of ethnic Chinese who live outside of China’s borders. Others are in English. The tweets are seen by few people living in China; the Great Firewall blocks Twitter from the Chinese internet, though tech-savvy domestic users find workarounds.
Twitter is well aware of China’s influence operations. In August and September, the platform announced that it had suspended more than 5,000 suspected Chinese state-controlled accounts and released data about them. Twitter also banned around 200,000 related accounts that had been created but were not yet very active.
ProPublica’s research tracked how the government-linked influence accounts that had targeted political dissidents and the Hong Kong protests turned their focus to the coronavirus outbreak. During the height of the epidemic in China, many of them became cheerleaders for the government, calling on citizens to unite in support of efforts to fight the epidemic and urging them to “dispel online rumors.”
With the epidemic spreading across the world, these accounts have sought to promote the Chinese government’s image abroad and shore up its support at home. One typical recent tweet in Chinese proclaimed: “We were not scared during the outbreak because our country was our rearguard. Many disease-fighting warriors were thrust to the front lines. Even more volunteers helped in seemingly trivial yet important ways.”
Why should we take China’s propaganda machinery seriously?
It’s propaganda reaches far and wide.
The latest tool of delivery is a mobile app, called “Study The Powerful Country” — this is a tool to teach the Xi Jinping thought.
The policy and ideals of the Chinese president are now enshrined in their constitution.
This is even more dangerous, as till now China had tried to influence the thought process at home. But now it’s even trying to influence what the world thinks of them.
An investigation by Propublica has already exposed Beijing’s propaganda machinery.
Since 2019, this website has tracked more than 10,000 suspect fake Twitter accounts. Propublica says these accounts were involved in a coordinated influence campaign.
They looked like normal users at first, but shared pro-China posts — repeatedly on their accounts.
One of them was a professor in North Carolina, another was a web designer in the United Kingdom.
And the campaign to win influence is not just online.
China is trying to win over foreign journalists too.
This story on Chinese media is about a visit by foreign journalists to Beijing.
Reportedly, since 2016, the Chinese government has paid several foreign journalists to participate in a 10-month long programme.
And journalists from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan have participated in it.
The journalists, reportedly stayed in plush residences in Beijing during their training, and were given free tours to provinces.
China has now begun shutting down criticism too. It recently expelled journalists from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. These publications had put out critical reports against the Communist Party.
The business is now expanding, and China is trying to control everything that falls under its purview.
China claims it beat coronavirus but does anyone believe it? ‘The truth has always been a casualty’
Hey, China. Maybe you should have held your hackers off for a bit while COVID-19 ravaged the planet. Just a suggestion
Citrix, Cisco and Zoho-pwning APT41 attack wave seems in awfully bad taste
China’s Mask Mercantilism
Hoarding urgently needed medical supplies and then selling them abroad is not charity, no matter what the China propagandists say.
The most remarkable case, however, is in Italy, where China’s ostentatious delivery of supplies and doctors has caused much consternation among Americans who worry that the United States is losing its global leadership role. Media accounts often omitted that the supplies were bought and paid for by the Italians, when the most newsworthy element to the story is that China actually kept its commitment to deliver what it sold.
‘Economist’ Runs Chinese Coronavirus Propaganda Disguised as News
Chinese outlets flout federal disclosure laws in disinformation campaign
The Economist is running Chinese propaganda from an outlet that is violating U.S. law to spread the message that Chinese president Xi Jinping has done a masterful job handling the coronavirus pandemic.
The propaganda advertorials, which are ads designed to look like news stories, come from the Beijing Review, an entity backed by the Chinese Communist Party. The outlet has never registered with the Department of Justice as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and does not include a legally required disclaimer that the ad is being pushed by a foreign nation.
“President Xi [Jinping] leads the battle against COVID-19 outbreak toward victory,” an advertorial published in the March 21 edition of the Economist reads. “China has rolled out ‘probably the most ambitious, agile, and aggressive disease containment effort in history.'”