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Beijing Created Many Twitter Accounts To Spread Fake News About The Pandemic

The State Department has identified an organized bot campaign on social networking site Twitter to spread misinformation from the Chinese regime, as part of a campaign to push responsibility for the North's global pandemic. 

The Global Coordinating Center (GEC) of the US Department of State, a unit that exposes overseas government's misinformation spread efforts, recently identified thousands of Twitter accounts that were fake accounts supported Chinese embassies and diplomats to spread false information about the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The Global Coordinating Center (GEC) has discovered a new, dishonest network of Twitter accounts that, in our judgment, were created to amplify China's misinformation campaign."
Lea Gabrielle, head of GEC, said at a press conference on 8/5.
“In our judgment, this network can be deployed to help the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) quickly amplify and spread false messages globally, skewing the flow of information to serve their interests.”
Gabrielle said the "very high possibility" of the effort was related to the Chinese Communist Party, which is "participating in a powerful information dissemination campaign" to reshape the global story of Covid. -19. The campaign, she said, includes efforts to paint the government "as a global leader in responding to the pandemic rather than the source of Covid-19."

In recent months, Chinese diplomats have stepped up Twitter - a banned social network in China - to praise the authorities 'efforts to suppress the epidemic, criticizing the treatment of other countries' epidemics and promote these baseless hypotheses that originate from outside China, such as the United States.

In one example, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson shared a video of a Chinese national anthem played on the streets of Italy when Chinese doctors came here for reinforcements, which was later exposed to be fake, said Gabrielle. In the video, it seems that some Italians are saying, "China, thank you" but in reality they are thanking their country's health care workers.

"However, Chinese diplomats and Chinese state-run media edit video content to Beijing's taste and share it widely." 

Gabrielle said, noting that in the case of This video is strongly propagated by social networking accounts with links to Russia.

Bot Network
Analysis from the GEC shows an increase in the number of followers of China's diplomatic Twitter accounts since March when the government stepped up its campaign to spread false information globally. New followers every day have grown from an average of 30 accounts per day to more than 720 accounts - 22 times more, said Gabrielle. Notably, many of them are newly created accounts.

“The sudden increase in the number of followers and the emergence of so many new accounts indicates an artificial bot network was created to follow and amplify the story from diplomats and the Chinese foreign ministry officials.” 

Said Gabrielle.

Another evidence is that many of these accounts track many Chinese embassies in different countries and many Chinese officials, especially most of them created in Beijing time frame, Gabrielle said.

For example, the accounts of two Chinese Foreign Ministry spokespersons Zhao Lianqiang and Hoa Xuan Oanh shared 3,423 of their most recent 10,000 followers. Nearly 40% of the most recent followers were created over a six-week period from March 1 to April 25.

A Twitter spokesperson said the social network:

"will maintain its uncompromising stance on platform manipulation and any attempt to undermine the honesty of our service. When we discover an information operations campaign that can be reliably traced from government-backed activities - domestic or international - we will make this information public. ”
A March study identified 10,000 fraudulent and hacked Twitter accounts belonging to an influential Chinese government campaign around the pandemic. However, the report of the nonprofit media channel ProPublica also warned:
“The actual size of the impact campaign can be much greater; Our monitoring results show that the accounts currently identified cover only a small fraction of the line.”

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