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RECOMMENDED READING: “China’s Hopeless Twitter Influence Operations”

November 1st, 2020 13:06

Chi­na ana­lyst and pod­cast­er Jor­dan Schnei­der has post­ed a well writ­ten and insight­ful analy­sis of Chi­nese Twit­ter influ­ence oper­a­tions, con­clud­ing that “Chi­na has no idea how to run a Twit­ter net­work.” The report begins:

Octo­ber 29, 2020 Over the past two years Twit­ter’s Pub­lic Safe­ty team has been releas­ing caches of accounts it believes to be part of state-backed infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions. Aus­tralian think tank ASPI (2020, 2019), Stan­ford’s Cyber Obser­va­to­ry Cen­ter (2020) and start­up Graphi­ka (2020, 2019) have done admirable jobs ana­lyz­ing the Chi­nese gov­ern­men­t’s hand­i­work. I’ve spent the past few months in lock­down teach­ing myself some python data sci­ence tech­niques and fig­ured I’d try my hand at sup­ple­ment­ing their research in the con­text of renewed fears of Chi­nese influ­ence on Tik­Tok and WeChat.

My con­clu­sion in brief:

Chi­na has no idea how to run a Twit­ter net­work and does not do a good job ampli­fy­ing its mes­sage with insin­cere state-run accounts. The con­tent it puts out is too hide­bound by pre­scribed talk­ing points and suf­fers from a gen­er­al lack of under­stand­ing about how to oper­ate in for­eign cul­tur­al environments.Using pur­chased accounts with large fol­low­er counts whose fol­low­ers couldn’t care less about pol­i­tics, much less speak Chi­nese or Eng­lish, is the Chi­nese operation’s most com­mon­ly used but least suc­cess­ful tac­tic. New strate­gies like pay­ing YouTu­bers and tech­nol­o­gy like GPT3, how­ev­er, could poten­tial­ly change the game. How­ev­er, unless the Chi­nese oper­a­tors get com­fort­able with let­ting these accounts run free, these tacks are unlike­ly to have much suc­cess either.

Read the rest here

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) report­ed last week that var­i­ous experts have con­clud­ed that Chi­nese influ­ence oper­a­tions pose a greater long term threat to the US than Russ­ian efforts. We also report­ed on a Brook­ings Insti­tute analy­sis that char­ac­ter­ized Chi­nese social media oper­a­tions as follows:

Beyond try­ing to col­lect intel­li­gence by hack­ing into the Biden cam­paign, Chi­na is exploit­ing high­er social media usage dur­ing the pan­dem­ic to pro­mote its pre­ferred nar­ra­tives. As part of Beijing’s effort to offer an attrac­tive alter­na­tive to U.S. glob­al lead­er­ship, offi­cial Chi­nese gov­ern­ment tweets ques­tion U.S. progress in respond­ing to COVID-19, deride race rela­tions in the Unit­ed States, and counter U.S. offi­cial mes­sag­ing regard­ing human rights in Xinjiang.