US media is reporting that Twitter’s greatly reduced anti-propaganda team was attempting to cope with what is described as “nuisance content” aimed at drowning out news about the unprecedented anti-Covid protests in China. According to the Washington Post report, Chinese language accounts, some long dormant, became active on Sunday and started spamming Twitter with links to escort services and other adult offerings alongside city names:
November 27, 2022 SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter’s radically reduced anti-propaganda team grappled on Sunday with a flood of nuisance content in China that researchers said was aimed at reducing the flow of news about stunning widespread protests against coronavirus restrictions. Tech is not your friend. We are. Sign up for The Tech Friend newsletter. Numerous Chinese-language accounts, some dormant for months or years, came to life early Sunday and started spamming the service with links to escort services and other adult offerings alongside city names. The result: For hours, anyone searching for posts from those cities and using the Chinese names for the locations would see pages and pages of useless tweets instead of information about the daring protests as they escalated to include calls for Communist Party leaders to resign. It is not the first time that suspected government-connected accounts have used the technique, according to a recently departed Twitter employee. But in the past, it was used to discredit a single account or a small group by naming them in the escort ads. “This is a known problem that our team was dealing with manually, aside from automations we put in place,” said the former employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid retribution for disclosing internal processes. In mass layoffs and resignations, Twitter’s overall staff has been slashed from about 7,500 to roughly 2,000, surviving employees estimated. Some groups, including those dealing with human rights issues, safety concerns and deceptive foreign influence operations, have been reduced to a handful of people or no staff at all.
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In February, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported pro-China accounts were flooding Twitter with messages that included the hashtag #GenocideGames, in an effort to dilute the hashtag’s power to galvanize criticism of the Winter Olympics host nation.