Twitter removes 170,000 accounts of Chinese campaigns seeking to influence the public … and these tactics are followed

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Twitter removes 170,000 accounts of Chinese campaigns seeking to influence the public … and these tactics are followed

 

Twitter has removed more than 170,000 accounts that social media say are China-linked influence campaigns, focusing on the Hong Kong and Corona virus and the American protests related to the murder of George Floyd.

 

The company announced that it had removed from its platform 23,750 basic accounts, and 150,000 “amplified or enhanced” accounts, meaning that the content published by those basic accounts was strengthened, after linking it to an impact campaign from China.

 

Researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) have found that despite Twitter being banned from working in China, the campaign has targeted Chinese-speaking audiences outside the country, “with the aim of influencing the public’s convictions on major issues, including the Hong Kong and billionaire protests.” Chinese exile Guo Longuei and to a lesser extent Corona and Taiwan virus. ”

 

Researchers analyzed 348,608 Tweets between January 2018 and April 2020, and found that most of the tweets were posted during business hours in Beijing between Monday and Friday, and decreased at weekends.

 

Chinese tactics

The tweets usually contain images containing text in Chinese, where the researchers found that the main goals of the campaign were people living in Hong Kong, followed by the broader Chinese diaspora.

 

The vast majority of accounts (78.5%) have no followers, and 95% have less than 8 followers, but these accounts were of a high level of participation, even if they were not membership. The research indicated that this indicates the use of paid robot networks.

 

They also found that a total of 156 tweets from accounts without followers received more than 50 likes, and 26 tweets from accounts without followers received more than 10 likes.

 

From what the researchers noticed in the accounts that were excluded from the data set, legitimate old accounts were hacked or purchased and then used as part of the campaign.

 

For example, an account changed his image from a Bengali man to a Chinese woman, and suddenly switched to publishing in Chinese in opposition to Hong Kong protests.

 

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute researchers said the reused accounts on Facebook contributed a large portion of the activity observed there.

 

The main topics of the tweets were that the Hong Kong demonstrators were violent, that the United States was interfering in the protests, along with accusations of using force, touching on the Taiwan elections, and praising China’s response in fighting the Corona virus.

 

Although these accounts were removed, researchers found that campaigns were continuing on Twitter and Facebook with reusable accounts and new accounts.

 

The focus has now shifted, according to the researchers, to “important black lives” protests in the United States, accusing America of “hypocrisy” for criticizing the police response to the protests in Hong Kong, while the US police and forces themselves use violence against protests in the United States, and warns protesters in Hong Kong believes that they can count on the United States to support China’s national interests. ”

 

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that campaign operators had also sought to engage heavily on some tweets, to boost it to the highest Twitter search of specific hashtags.

 

The researchers said, “Technical indications indicate that the network is linked to the youth wing of the Communist Party and a central network that has maintained a large number of compromised accounts.”

 

Twitter confirmed that in the future it will provide an archive of impressions and other relevant information, to understand the impact of these campaigns, and to work with academic organizations to achieve this goal.

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