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China-Linked Actors Sought To Influence Canadian Parliamentary Election On WeChat

November 15th, 2021 14:39

The Atlantic Council’s DFR­Lab, a US think tank, is report­ing that Chi­na-linked WeChat accounts took an active role in seek­ing to influ­ence the recent par­lia­men­tary elec­tion in Cana­da, dis­play­ing signs of a coor­di­nat­ed cam­paign to influ­ence behav­ior among the Chi­nese dias­po­ra. Accord­ing to a DFR­Lab report:

Novem­ber 4, 2021 Chi­na seems to have found increas­ing val­ue in open­ly attempt­ing to influ­ence com­mu­ni­ties through its pop­u­lar WeChat mes­sag­ing app as a means of gal­va­niz­ing pub­lic favor inter­na­tion­al­ly toward its own gov­ern­ment and activ­i­ties, includ­ing — as this case will show — attempt­ing to impact elec­toral out­comes in demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­tries.  Evi­dence from the most recent Cana­di­an elec­tion under­scores the val­ue Chi­na sees in con­trol­ling the infor­ma­tion flow to its dias­po­ra com­mu­ni­ty. It also sug­gests an uptick in Chi­nese efforts to trans­late its online efforts into offline action. […]

The DFR­Lab uncov­ered a num­ber of arti­cles on WeChat aimed at the Chi­nese dias­po­ra pop­u­la­tion with the aim of influ­enc­ing the dias­po­ra vote. While many of these posts pro­vid­ed resources for how to access offi­cial infor­ma­tion on vot­er reg­is­tra­tion and the plat­forms and posi­tions of can­di­dates run­ning in par­tic­u­lar areas, an equal if not larg­er num­ber of accounts post­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion intend­ed to dis­suade Chi­nese vot­ers from sup­port­ing can­di­dates hold­ing anti-Chi­na views. Among these posts were many from toron­tol­ing­shiguan.  In its Sep­tem­ber 10 news brief­ing, toron­tol­ing­shiguan includ­ed an essay lift­ed from a Sep­tem­ber 9 arti­cle post­ed to jiaren­ji­ashi, an offi­cial WeChat account run by Today Com­mer­cial News (TCN), a media orga­ni­za­tion pur­port­ing to share busi­ness and lifestyle-relat­ed news rel­e­vant to Chi­nese speak­ers in Cana­da. The Sep­tem­ber 9 essay fea­tured warn­ings to the dias­po­ra com­mu­ni­ty regard­ing Ken­ny Chiu (赵锦荣), a Con­ser­v­a­tive Par­ty mem­ber of par­lia­ment (MP) then seek­ing reelec­tion, while the head­line for the Sep­tem­ber 10 news brief — which has since been tak­en down — read: “Chi­nese take heed! Con­ser­v­a­tive MP Ken­ny Chiu to Raise ‘For­eign Influ­ence Reg­is­tra­tion Act.”

Read the full report here.

The report notes that WeChat is China’s most pop­u­lar mes­sag­ing app, with a month­ly user base of over 1 bil­lion users, and is the pri­ma­ry com­mu­ni­ca­tion plat­form between the Chi­nese dias­po­ra and those liv­ing in China.