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How China Uses Private Firms To Manipulate Twitter And Facebook

January 4th, 2022 15:01

US media is report­ing how Chi­na taps pri­vate busi­ness­es to gen­er­ate con­tent on demand, draw fol­low­ers, track crit­ics, and pro­vide oth­er ser­vices for infor­ma­tion cam­paigns on social media plat­forms such as Twit­ter and Face­book. Accord­ing to a New York Times report:

Decem­ber 21, 2021 Doc­u­ments reviewed by The Times have revealed in stark detail how Bei­jing taps pri­vate busi­ness­es to gen­er­ate con­tent on demand, draw fol­low­ers, track crit­ics and pro­vide oth­er ser­vices for infor­ma­tion cam­paigns. That oper­a­tion increas­ing­ly plays out on inter­na­tion­al social media plat­forms like Face­book and Twit­ter, which the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment blocks at home.  The files — part of a request for bids from con­trac­tors that was post­ed by the police in Shang­hai — offer a rare glimpse into how Chi­na works to spread pro­pa­gan­da and sculpt opin­ion on glob­al social media, includ­ing through the use of fake accounts and through tar­get­ed cam­paigns against online crit­ics of the state. The doc­u­ments were tak­en offline after The Times con­tact­ed the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment about them.  The request sug­gest­ed that police offi­cials under­stood the need for strong engage­ment with the pub­lic through pro­files-for-hire. The deep­er engage­ment lends the fake per­sonas cred­i­bil­i­ty at a time when social media com­pa­nies are increas­ing­ly tak­ing down accounts that seem inau­then­tic or coordinated.

Read the full inves­ti­ga­tion here.

The NYT inves­ti­ga­tion notes that as over­seas Chi­nese pro­pa­gan­da cam­paigns have devel­oped, they have come to rely more on visu­al media, with Chi­nese offi­cials look­ing for com­pa­nies to not only main­tain and deploy fake accounts but to gen­er­ate orig­i­nal video con­tent as well.

The GIOR was among the first pub­li­ca­tions to uncov­er a net­work of inau­then­tic social media accounts flood­ing YouTube with hun­dreds of Chi­nese pro­pa­gan­da videos white­wash­ing China’s human rights vio­la­tions against the Mus­lim Uyghur pop­u­la­tion in Xin­jiang and push­ing the hash­tag #StopX­in­jian­gRu­mors. Sev­er­al months after we pub­lished our find­ings, the New York Times pub­lished a major inves­ti­ga­tion into the same Chi­nese influ­ence oper­a­tion first cov­ered by the GIOR.