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China Is Tracking “Anti-China Personnel”, Including Foreign Academics And Journalists, On Twitter And Facebook

February 3rd, 2022 15:48

US media report­ed in Decem­ber that China’s state media, police force, and mil­i­tary are min­ing West­ern social media plat­forms, such as Face­book and Twit­ter, to track “anti-Chi­na per­son­nel,” includ­ing for­eign aca­d­e­mics and jour­nal­ists. Accord­ing to a Wash­ing­ton Post report:

Decem­ber 31, 2021 Chi­na is turn­ing a major part of its inter­nal Inter­net-data sur­veil­lance net­work out­ward, min­ing West­ern social media, includ­ing Face­book and Twit­ter, to equip its gov­ern­ment agen­cies, mil­i­tary and police with infor­ma­tion on for­eign tar­gets, accord­ing to a Wash­ing­ton Post review of hun­dreds of Chi­nese bid­ding doc­u­ments, con­tracts and com­pa­ny fil­ings. Chi­na main­tains a coun­try­wide net­work of gov­ern­ment data sur­veil­lance ser­vices — called pub­lic opin­ion analy­sis soft­ware — that were devel­oped over the past decade and are used domes­ti­cal­ly to warn offi­cials of polit­i­cal­ly sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion online. The soft­ware pri­mar­i­ly tar­gets China’s domes­tic Inter­net users and media, but a Post review of bid­ding doc­u­ments and con­tracts for over 300 Chi­nese gov­ern­ment projects since the begin­ning of 2020 include orders for soft­ware designed to col­lect data on for­eign tar­gets from sources such as Twit­ter, Face­book and oth­er West­ern social media. The doc­u­ments, pub­licly acces­si­ble through domes­tic gov­ern­ment bid­ding plat­forms, also show that agen­cies includ­ing state media, pro­pa­gan­da depart­ments, police, mil­i­tary and cyber reg­u­la­tors are pur­chas­ing new or more sophis­ti­cat­ed sys­tems to gath­er data. These include a $320,000 Chi­nese state media soft­ware pro­gram that mines Twit­ter and Face­book to cre­ate a data­base of for­eign jour­nal­ists and academics.

Read the rest here.

The report notes that these sur­veil­lance net­works are part of a wider dri­ve by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment to refine its for­eign pro­pa­gan­da efforts through big data and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence. The fol­low­ing Chi­nese media out­lets are report­ed to be part of these networks:

  • The Glob­al Times, China’s lead­ing Eng­lish-lan­guage news out­let whose pro­pa­gan­da efforts have been exten­sive­ly cov­ered by the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report. Accord­ing to the report, the out­let has a unit gath­er­ing for­eign social media data for China’s For­eign Min­istry, Beijing’s For­eign Affairs Office, and oth­er gov­ern­ment agencies.
  • The People’s Dai­ly Online, a unit of the state news­pa­per, the People’s Dai­ly, pro­vides one of the country’s largest con­tract pub­lic opin­ion analy­sis ser­vices. Accord­ing to the report, the out­let won dozens of projects, includ­ing over­seas social media data col­lec­tion ser­vices for police, judi­cial author­i­ties, Com­mu­nist Par­ty orga­ni­za­tions, and oth­er clients.

In June 2020, the US State Depart­ment angered Bei­jing by des­ig­nat­ing the US-based oper­a­tions of China’s top state media out­lets as for­eign mis­sions, increas­ing report­ing require­ments, and restrict­ing their visa allocations.

In May, the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report report­ed that Chi­na had become the top spender on for­eign influ­ence oper­a­tions in the US, with Chi­nese for­eign agent spend­ing sky­rock­et­ing from just over $10 mil­lion in 2016 to near­ly $64 mil­lion in 2020.