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Reach Of Chinese Influence Operations On Twitter More Limited Than Expected, Research Shows

January 10th, 2022 15:26

US media report­ed last month on new research sug­gest­ing that Chi­nese state-backed influ­ence cam­paigns on Twit­ter are more lim­it­ed in their reach than usu­al­ly expect­ed, with most accounts hav­ing few or no fol­low­ers and receiv­ing min­i­mal to no engage­ment. Accord­ing to a For­eign Pol­i­cy report:

Decem­ber 15, 2021 As with past Twit­ter take­downs of pro-CCP net­works, accounts in the first net­work were thin­ly veiled: Rather than pre­sent­ing the account hold­ers as plau­si­ble real peo­ple, they often fea­tured default or stock pro­file images, only occa­sion­al­ly con­tained a bio, and showed lit­tle his­to­ry of post­ing con­tent that pre­dat­ed the top­ic of the oper­a­tion. They also had few or no fol­low­ers and received min­i­mal or no engage­ment. The first dataset includ­ed 31,269 tweets, over 97 per­cent of which had zero engage­ments (the sum of likes, replies, retweets, and quote tweets). Many oth­er pro-CCP cam­paigns, includ­ing from 2019 and 2020, were sim­i­lar­ly lack­ing: In the 2020 take­down, the aver­age engage­ment per tweet was just 0.81 (less than one like, com­ment, or share) and the aver­age engage­ment per account was 23.07. Indeed, one of the most notable things about these networks—and pro-CCP oper­a­tions on West­ern social media writ large—is how tac­ti­cal­ly repet­i­tive, per­sis­tent, and yet low engage­ment they are. Even in the few weeks after Twit­ter removed the spe­cif­ic accounts we exam­ined, we observed hun­dreds of accounts with sim­i­lar pro­files and post­ing pat­terns. Oth­er researchers not­ed sim­i­lar patterns—thousands more accounts, yet dis­tinct from the net­works we analyzed.

Read the rest here.

Accord­ing to the report, there are three expla­na­tions why pro-Chi­nese influ­ence oper­a­tions on Twit­ter are fre­quent  but have a very low engage­ment rate;

  • Social plat­form take­downs may be lim­it­ing pro-CCP cam­paigns’ growth
  • CCP met­rics and orga­ni­za­tion­al behav­ior may incen­tivize low-engage­ment operations
  • The CCP may not care much for, or be very good at, Twit­ter astro­turf­ing (yet)