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New York Time Covers Chinese Influence Operation First Reported By The GIOR

July 1st, 2021 16:23

Late last month, the New York Times pub­lished a major inves­ti­ga­tion into a Chi­nese influ­ence oper­a­tion first cov­ered in March by the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR). The effort flood­ed YouTube with thou­sands of pro­pa­gan­da videos in which ordi­nary Chi­nese cit­i­zens deny any human rights vio­la­tions of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment in Xin­jiang and denounce West­ern com­pa­nies. Accord­ing to the NYT inves­ti­ga­tion:

June 22, 2021 These and thou­sands of oth­er videos are meant to look like unfil­tered glimpses of life in Xin­jiang, the west­ern Chi­nese region where the Com­mu­nist Par­ty has car­ried out repres­sive poli­cies against Uyghurs and oth­er pre­dom­i­nant­ly Mus­lim eth­nic minori­ties.  Most of the clips car­ry no logos or oth­er signs that they are offi­cial pro­pa­gan­da.  But tak­en togeth­er, the videos begin to reveal clues of broad­er coor­di­na­tion — such as the Eng­lish sub­ti­tles in clips post­ed to YouTube and oth­er West­ern plat­forms.  A month­s­long analy­sis of more than 3,000 of the videos by The New York Times and ProP­ub­li­ca found evi­dence of an influ­ence cam­paign orches­trat­ed by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.  The oper­a­tion has pro­duced and spread thou­sands of videos in which Chi­nese cit­i­zens deny abus­es against their own com­mu­ni­ties and scold for­eign offi­cials and multi­na­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions who dare ques­tion the Chi­nese government’s human rights record in Xin­jiang.  It all amounts to one of China’s most elab­o­rate efforts to shape glob­al opinion.

Read the full inves­ti­ga­tion here.

GIOR was the first pub­li­ca­tion to report on this Chi­nese influ­ence oper­a­tion on YouTube. More than three months ago, in March, we pub­lished our first inves­ti­ga­tion into the phe­nom­e­non. Accord­ing to the GIOR inves­ti­ga­tion:

March 16, 2021 Accord­ing to a Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report inves­ti­ga­tion, YouTube is being flood­ed with hun­dreds of Chi­nese pro­pa­gan­da videos white­wash­ing China’s human rights vio­la­tions against the Mus­lim Uyghur pop­u­la­tion in Xin­jiang. GIOR has found evi­dence of sev­er­al new­ly cre­at­ed YouTube accounts push­ing the hash­tag #StopX­in­jian­gRu­mors and flood­ing the plat­form with hun­dreds of videos seek­ing to con­vince an Eng­lish-speak­ing audi­ence that West­ern states are spread­ing false claims about the sit­u­a­tion of the Uyghur pop­u­la­tion in Xin­jiang. Just eight YouTube accounts have uploaded more than 616 videos in recent months.

Two months lat­er, when the same pro­pa­gan­da net­work start­ed a new cam­paign to denounce West­ern com­pa­nies after they had crit­i­cized China’s poli­cies in Xin­jiang, we pub­lished a fol­low-up sto­ry. Accord­ing to the sec­ond GIOR inves­ti­ga­tion:

May 11, 2021 A Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) inves­ti­ga­tion has found that YouTube is being flood­ed with hun­dreds of Chi­nese pro­pa­gan­da videos denounc­ing West­ern com­pa­nies after they accused the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment of using forced labor in the cot­ton-grow­ing Xin­jiang region. The videos, all of which fea­ture Eng­lish and Chi­nese sub­ti­tles and are aimed at a West­ern audi­ence, were also found to white­wash China’s human rights vio­la­tions against the province’s Uyghur minor­i­ty. West­ern com­pa­nies that source prod­ucts from Xin­jiang and that have spo­ken out against Chi­nese poli­cies in the region have pre­vi­ous­ly faced threats of a boy­cott by the Chi­nese government.

It is unclear whether or not New York Times was aware of our pre­vi­ous report­ing on the sub­ject, although a NYT writer had liked our sto­ry on Twitter.