A London researcher recently decided to speak out about the way the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses social media to push a pro-Beijing narrative, as well as condemn any opinion that questions its handling of the CCP Virus (coronavirus).
Benjamin Strick, who works as a website data analyst, said that between April 25 and May 3 he managed to identify more than 1,000 accounts associated with the social network Twitter, which promotes the CCP’s narrative, in addition to 50 Facebook pages intended for the same purpose.
Strick revealed the existence of numerous bot accounts on platforms such as Twitter or Facebook that put pressure on anyone who speaks out against the CCP, while at the same time manipulating the information to feed the idea that the U.S. military is behind the outbreak of the CCP Virus.
Strick referred to the pro-Beijing movement on social networks as a “well-structured information campaign (…) to skew the narrative around varying topics, and to push set agendas.”
Recent efforts by the CCP on the web would share some similarities with a campaign launched by the CCP in August 2019 in which some 936 accounts were employed to deliberately sow political discord in Hong Kong toward the pro-democracy movement.
Ben Nimo, director of research at Graphika Inc., said the accounts Strick identified appeared to be linked to a network known as Spamouflage Dragon, which had previously been identified instigating attacks on Hong Kong protesters through fake and hijacked YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, according to Bloomberg News.
A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), specified how various CCP non-state actors on social networks have been coordinating an extensive pro-CCP campaign with different objectives, among them the dissemination of misinformation about the coronavirus.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, May 13, mentioned the reports of what it called a CCP disinformation campaign, saying they were “completely unfounded.”
Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said during a press conference in Beijing, “China opposes disinformation,” and then argued seconds later, “As to Chinese officials opening accounts on Twitter and other social media platforms, the purpose is to better communicate with the world and introduce China’s situation and policies. We want to strengthen communication and exchange with the outside world to enhance our mutual understanding.”
Strick specified that many of the newly detected accounts, associated with the CCP, focused their attention on the Chinese entrepreneur Guo Wengui, who is in exile for his critical view of the CCP and now lives in the United States.
The content analyzed by the Strick also detected several unsubstantiated claims linking the vapeo to the CCP Virus, while at the same time expanding theories linking the spread of the virus from a U.S. biosafety laboratory.
The U.S. State Department’s Center for Global Engagement said on May 8 that it had identified “a new network of unauthentic accounts” on Twitter, which were said to amplify CCP “propaganda and misinformation.”
Global Engagement Center coordinator Lea Gabrielle said the [CCP] was “adopting Russian-style disinformation techniques” in an effort to confuse the issue and try to convince people that the CCP Virus did not originate in China.
“Beijing has engaged in an aggressive information campaign to try and reshape the global narrative around Covid (CCP Virus). (…) It’s doing this in attempt to make the world see China as the global leader in the response rather than the source of the pandemic,” she added.
Research published in March by Vanessa Molter, a graduate research assistant at Stanford’s Internet Observatory, concluded that the CCP had used state media to “control, narrate, and shift blame from the beginning” of the CCP Virus outbreak at home and abroad.