Inauthentic pro-CCP social media accounts focus on the Quad


A subset of a pro-China Communist Party network notorious for spreading misinformation on US-based social media platforms is breaking from its usual narratives in order to meddle in the Quad partnership between the Australia, India, Japan and the United States and oppose the Japanese plan to deploy missile units in southern Okinawa prefecture.

“Osborn Roland” joined Twitter in August 2021 and expressed concern about military deployments in Okinawa. A Facebook account named “Vivi Wu” – who apparently speaks German, Spanish, French, English and Chinese – claims that the Japanese “are being treated like dogs by the United States”. The Korean name “Hag Yoenghui,” who has a profile description in Arabic, tweeted: “We in Australia initially supported the US in their fight against China, and relations with China were extremely strained… Why is our government helping the United States cope? with China?’

So far, researchers at ASPI’s International Cyber ​​Policy Center have uncovered 80 accounts – and counting – on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and YouTube that since December have posted in multiple languages ​​opposing Japan’s military activities and the Quad. The timelines of these accounts show that they have previously posted content consistent with the pro-CCP Spamouflage network, which generally targets topics relevant to Chinese diaspora communities and amplifies narratives that align with the CCP’s geopolitical goals. .

Past campaigns have focused on defaming Chinese dissident Guo Wengui, denying human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, promoting Buddhist sects supported by the CCP’s United Front Work Department, cooptation of the StopAsianHate hashtag and broadcast Conspiracy theories of Covid-19 origin.

As with previous campaigns, this network is poorly exploited. Errors in hashtags, Incomplete URLs reports from Chinese state media and evidence of instructions posted in a tweet are clear indications of coordination and possible automation. A Twitter account named ‘Catherine’ post a screenshot of their work environment while sharing a Facebook post from “Vivi Wu”. The image revealed that the operator of this account had bookmarked an “offshore browsing and internet access” website (境外导航 –上网从) and two Chinese Canadian news websites, “Anpopo Chinese News’ (安婆婆华人网) and ‘Fenghua Media’ (枫华网), and closely monitored the multiple Twitter accounts of Chinese virologist Yan Limeng.

In August last year, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi confirmed that Japan was placing anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles on the island of Ishigaki to defend Japan’s disputed southwestern islands. and countering Chinese anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) capabilities that could prevent the United States from intervening in a regional conflict. This followed a broader shift in Japanese foreign policy in 2021 that described China’s military assertion as a “strong concern” and prompted Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to suggest that Japan was “misled by some countries with a biased opinion against China”.

In response to these announcements, the Pro-CCP Accounts Network leveraged local concerns about the environment and the tourism industry in Ishigaki in an attempt to prevent the placement of missiles and suggested Japan was “acting as a pawn for the United States” in an attempt to undermine the bilateral relationship. This included assignment photos of atomic bomb clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Other network accounts laid as Australian, Indian, Japanese and American citizens to criticize the Quad diplomatic partnership in strengthening their economic relations with China. These covert efforts coincided with a Chinese state media article published in December claiming that Japanese politicians are “trying to interfere in the Taiwan Strait” and that “the international community should be very vigilant about the mentality of security forces.” Japanese rights to play with fire”.

Some accounts have amplified petitions created in 2019 that sought to stop construction of missile bases on Ishigaki. This month, the English petition had 312 signatures while the Japanese version had over 6,000. Based on our analysis of previous CCP information operations, we expect the accounts to pro- PCC from this network co-opt other similar local petitions and protests. A Account previously amplified reporting of a December protest against the use of private ports in Ishigaki by the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

This emerging reiteration of the Spamouflage network has only recently begun to restock with newly created accounts and content, so the impact of the campaign has been low. Most tweets received at most two interactions and most accounts have less than 10 followers. However, these types of networks can quickly grow to tens of thousands of accounts and persist on US-based social media platforms for years before being retweeted or amplified by an influential opinion leader or government official. . It took the Russian Internet Research Agency at least two years to prepare before intervening in the 2016 US election.

Twitter already has assigned these networks to the Chinese government, making them useful for better understanding the CCP’s broader political and psychological warfare strategies.

Overall, the campaign indicates that the CCP is concerned about strengthening alignment between countries in Europe, NATO, Asia and the Indo-Pacific following the Russian invasion of the ‘Ukraine. The erosion of alliances such as the Quad, AUKUS, ANZUS and NATO will remain the CCP’s main strategic objective.

It also demonstrates that the network is highly agile and can move quickly from targeting the Chinese diaspora and spreading propaganda to engaging in military-related information operations and interfering with the posture of the Chinese. foreign forces. Some aspects of this campaign sought to shape local Japanese domestic sentiment through intimidationwhich is more psychological warfare than propaganda.


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