October 22, 2021

Report: “Army of Fake Fans Boosts China’s Messaging on Twitter”

From the Associated Press:

A seven-month investigation by the Associated Press and the Oxford Internet Institute, a department at Oxford University, found that China’s rise on Twitter has been powered by an army of fake accounts that have retweeted Chinese diplomats and state media tens of thousands of times, covertly amplifying propaganda that can reach hundreds of millions of people — often without disclosing the fact that the content is government-sponsored.

Read the Complete AP Article

From the Oxford Internet Institute:

In this report, we identify a coordinated network of accounts amplifying the People’s Republic of China’s diplomats stationed in the UK. Based on an analysis of all retweet and reply engagement with the PRC’s diplomats in the UK between June 2020 and January 2021, we present the following findings: 

  1. We identify 62 accounts that show strong signs of coordination. These accounts amplify the messages from UK-based PRC diplomats at a high rate, often hundreds or thousands of times within just a few months. 33 accounts had already been suspended or deleted by the time we concluded our investigation, and the remaining 29 were suspended for platform manipulation after we shared them with Twitter. 
  2. The accounts in the network exhibits multiple forms of coordination, including account creation, long-term activity, co-amplification of PRC diplomats within just seconds of each other, and distinct overlapping language patterns. In several cases, accounts could be traced back to likely a single human operator switching between multiple accounts in sequence. 
  3. This coordinated information operation drives a significant proportion of the engagement with the PRC’s UK public diplomacy on Twitter. Over the eight month period, 44% of the ambassador’s retweets and 20% of his replies came from the coordinated network of 62 accounts  

Direct to Full Text Report: “China’s Inauthentic UK Twitter Diplomacy – A coordinated Network Amplifying PRC Diplomats”
36 pages; PDF.

 

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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