Monday, October 18, 2021

How Social Media Is Used as a Pro-China Amplification Machine

A recent study indicates that the pro-China amplification machine makes use of fake social media accounts, many of them impersonating Western citizens, to push Chinese government content while attacking those who criticize Beijing.

Beijing is reportedly trying to spread pro-China propaganda supporting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its actions using social media networks. According to the findings of a new study, several fake social media accounts are being deployed to spread pro-China narratives in a planned way. These fake profile users also slam those who oppose the actions and views of the CCP.

Spreading Beijing’s views via its pro-China amplification machine

The aim of these fake social media account users spreading Beijing’s views is to soil the reputation of those who criticize the CCP and its activities. The report was published by the Centre for Information Resilience (CSR). The study has also been shared with the BBC.

The fake profile users shared garish cartoons mocking the outspoken critics of China, including Chinese tycoon Guo Wengui, who is in exile now. They also took potshots at Li-Meng Yan, a “whistleblower” scientist, and Steve Bannon, who used to work as a strategist for former U.S. president Trump.

 

Fake social media accounts are used as a pro-china amplification machine.
The aim of these fake social media account users spreading Beijing’s views is to soil the reputation of those who criticize the CCP and its activities. (Image: 1245663 via Pixabay)

While there is no direct evidence showing these fake social media profiles are actually linked with the Chinese government, CSR noted that these resemble pro-China networks that were previously blacklisted by both Twitter and Facebook. These networks amplified views supporting the CCP much like the Chinese state representatives. The profile users have lambasted the U.S. on various issues, including human rights.

Fake profiles criticize the US while supporting China 

The fake profile users have cited examples like the murder of George Floyd and mentioned U.S. bias against Asians. A tweet targeting gun violence in the U.S. has been deleted by Twitter and the account has been banned. Some such accounts also deny the gross human rights violations in China’s Xinjiang region. These accounts deny the illegal detention of Uyghur Muslims by China.

Graphika’s senior investigative analyst Ira Hubert, commenting on the study, said: “The report shows that on U.S. platforms, there was no ‘honeymoon’ in the first months of the Biden administration. The network put out a steady mix of anti-U.S. content, for example cheering U.S. ‘defeat’ ahead of its withdrawal from Afghanistan and painting the U.S. as a poor ally whose aid to India was inadequate during some of its worst months battling Covid.”

The report findings indicate that the fake accounts used to support Chinese propaganda are the result of a well-executed strategy to target Western countries that oppose Chinese aggression. Some of these fake social media profiles were made to post Chinese propaganda content while some others were set up to like and share those posts fast.

Many of these fake profiles were equipped with AI-generated photos. (Image: 4111582 via Pixabay)

Extensive use of AI and dormant accounts

Many of these fake profiles were equipped with AI-generated photos. These images resemble real users, but they were made using AI tools. This is a new technique being used to evade the scrutiny of social media entities. 

Not all fake account users were not all AI-driven, as some accounts laid dormant for a long period of time before suddenly activating. This indicates the fake users hijacked the dormant accounts.

After the study was published, Facebook took prompt action and removed all such accounts. YouTube also terminated some such accounts. The same was the reaction of Twitter, which said: “When we identify information operation campaigns that we can reliably attribute to state-linked activity — either domestic or foreign-led — we disclose them to our public archive.”

The study findings show a new and ambitious effort by China to reach out to users accustomed to using social media platforms that are not allowed in the Chinese mainland. 

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Max Lu
Max Lu is an author who specializes in Asian geopolitics.
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