Report: Fake Twitter accounts spread Chinese propaganda
BEIJING (AP) — A U.S.-based intelligence firm says it has uncovered a network of more than 600 inauthentic Twitter accounts that are spreading a positive narrative from China’s farwestern Xinjiang region, as Beijing was accused of violations. human rights and locked up hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities there.
According to a report published Monday by Nisos, 648 Twitter accounts posted several thousand tweets with hashtags such as #xinjiang, #forcedlabor and #humanrights, with seemingly innocuous content such as traditional dances and stage photos, as well as videos. with individuals denying that forced labor exists in Xinjiang.
The network and its tweets appear to be intended to promote “a positive narrative regarding the treatment of Xinjiang and Uyghurs within the People’s Republic of China” and actively target overseas audiences, according to the report.
The report comes as China faces international criticism for its treatment of Uyghurs, a Turkish ethnic group originally from the Xinjiang region. In recent years, China has detained hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs in what Beijing calls “vocational education and training centers” but are widely considered by experts and scholars to be internment camps.
China has also been accused of using forced labor in programs that transferred Uyghurs out of Xinjiang and assigned them to different factories across the country. Global brands around the world including Nike and H&M expressed concern over the use of forced labour, confirming that they will not use products such as cotton from the region and will increase surveillance of their supply chains.
Although Nisos researchers did not reveal who is behind the network of inauthentic accounts, they said the majority of tweets were posted during business hours in China, between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Many accounts were created after August 2021, using stock footage for their profile pictures, and tweets were often posted within minutes of each other.
Accounts often quote other accounts within the network to gain visibility on the platform, although they sometimes also amplify content from Chinese diplomats, such as Zhang Meifang, China’s consul general in Belfast, as well as Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao. Lijian, said Nisos.
Many Twitter accounts mentioned in the Nisos report have since been suspended for violating Twitter rules.
This is not the first time that researchers have uncovered networks of inauthentic accounts spreading propaganda to influence perceptions of China.
Last year, researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that more than 2,000 Twitter accounts were spreading Chinese government accounts of what was happening in Xinjiang, many of which expressed anti-Western sentiment or qualified the accusations against China of lies.
China often uses social media as a way to spread its messages, with a survey last year by the AP and the Oxford Internet Institute finding armies of fake accounts are amplifying propaganda. by Chinese diplomats and state media tens of thousands of times to reach a wider audience while obscuring the fact that the content is state-sponsored.
Earlier this year, China launched a low-key social media campaign in which he paid a US-based agency to recruit influencers in the United States to promote the Beijing Winter Olympics on Instagram and TikTok social media platforms.