Network of pro-China accounts has burrowed into site known for tolerance of hate speech
Wall Street Journal: Dustin Volz and Sarah Needleman
An online Chinese influence operation has sought to plant pro-Beijing propaganda on a niche U.S. social-media site popular with far-right activists, according to cybersecurity researchers, showing the Chinese government’s disinformation efforts are evolving and more extensive than previously known.
Gab.com, which is known for its loose rules about hate speech, hosted 114 user accounts affiliated with a covert Chinese campaign known as Spamouflage, according to a new report from Alethea, a firm focused on detecting social-media manipulation. Gab’s users include far-right media host Alex Jones and conservative media provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.
The findings, viewed by The Wall Street Journal, shed light on the Chinese government’s efforts to inject pro-China propaganda and disinformation into U.S.-owned social-media platforms, a trend cybersecurity analysts have said has expanded greatly in the past few years.
The activity on Gab—which resembled activity disclosed last month on major social-media sites—might also be intended as a shift to platforms with relatively minimal content moderation as well as an attempt to appeal to American right-wing audiences, researchers said.
The campaign generated posts in English and Mandarin that focused on topics such as Chinese dissidents, rare-earth-metals mining and perceived adversaries of the Chinese government, including the U.S., the report said.
“The hostility of the United States to China is becoming more and more obvious, as can be seen from the reports of their various social platforms and state-owned media,” reads one Gab post flagged in the report.
Alethea founder Lisa Kaplan said the activity on Gab is one of a few examples of a network of inauthentic accounts linked to the Chinese government operating on a niche social-media service with loose rules around speech and a right-leaning user base.
Read the full story here.