, 19 tweets, 14 min read Read on Twitter
NEW (unplanned!) @ASPI_ICPC report out this morning - Preliminary Analysis of PRC-linked Information Operations targeting the Hong Kong protests using data @Twitter published online 19 August
.@JakeWallis_ASPI, @tomatospy & @elisethoma5 found the information operation targeted at Hong Kong appear to have been a relatively small and hastily assembled operation rather than a sophisticated information campaign planned well in advance. However our research also found...
..the accounts included in the info ops were active in earlier operations targeting political opponents of the Chinese government inc. exiled billionaire Guo Wengui, human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, book publisher Gui Minhai & protesters in China
The earliest of these operations dates back to April 2017.
This is significant because - if
@Twitter's attribution is correct - it indicates actors linked to the Chinese Government may have been running covert info operations on western social media platforms for at least 2yrs
@Twitter .@ASPI_ICPC's research finds this was a blunt–force influence operation, using spam accounts to disseminate messaging, leveraging an influence-for-hire network. The predominant use of Chinese language suggests that the target audiences were Hong Kongers & the overseas diaspora
@Twitter @ASPI_ICPC Many of the @Twitter dataset accounts are re-purposed spam accounts. Such accounts are readily & cheaply available for purchase from resellers. Accounts tweeted in a variety of languages & on topics ranging inc. British football. Indonesian tech support, Korean boy bands & porn
@Twitter @ASPI_ICPC @ASPI_org This map shows the self-reported locations of the accounts suspended by @twitter, colour-coded for language. But there is a discrepancy between language & location. The self-reported locations are likely to reflect the former spam/marketing bot nature of the accounts (more - pg7)
@Twitter @ASPI_ICPC @ASPI_org Important takeaway - use of these kinds of accounts suggests the operators behind the information operation did NOT have time to establish the kinds of credible digital assets used in the Russian campaign targeting the 🇺🇸 2016 elections...
@Twitter @ASPI_ICPC @ASPI_org ...Building that kind of ‘influence infrastructure’ takes time and the situation in 🇭🇰 was evolving too rapidly, so it appears the actors behind this campaign took a short-cut by buying established accounts with lots of followers
@Twitter @ASPI_ICPC @ASPI_org TIMELINE: Content relevant to the 🇭🇰 crisis appears to have begun on 14 April 2019. Tweets mentioning Hong Kong continued at the pace of a few tweets every few days, steadily increasing over April + May, until a significant spike on 14 June - the day of a huge #antiELAb protest
@Twitter @ASPI_ICPC @ASPI_org We found a lack of targeted messaging & narratives - one of the features of well-planned info ops is the ability to subtly target specific audiences. By contrast, this operation is relatively blunt. 3 main narratives emerge in the @Twitter data:
@Twitter @ASPI_ICPC @ASPI_org 1) Condemnation of the protesters
2) Support for the Hong Kong police and ‘rule of law’
3) Conspiracy theories about Western involvement in the protests
@Twitter @ASPI_ICPC @ASPI_org Our research also uncovered evidence the accounts identified by @Twitter were engaged in earlier information campaigns targeting opponents of the Chinese government.
It appears likely these info ops were intended to influence the opinions of overseas Chinese diasporas..
@Twitter @ASPI_ICPC @ASPI_org ...this is supported by a notice released by China News Service - a Chinese-language media company owned by the United Front Work Department - that targets the Chinese diaspora - requesting tenders to expand its @Twitter reach
@Twitter @ASPI_ICPC @ASPI_org Campaign against exiled billionaire Guo Wengui - The most significant & sustained of the earlier info ops we found targeted Guo Wengui. This is by far the most extensive campaign in the dataset & is significantly larger than the activity directed towards the Hong Kong protests
And I shouldn’t forget the porn spam accounts
Early coverage of our new @ASPI_ICPC report by Bloomberg’s @sbanjo:
Some extra data analysis that didn’t make it into the report via @tomatospy
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