China Using Online 'Influencers' to Spread COVID Lies

Beijing is paying foreign collaborators and media outlets to spread its disinformation in target countries.

    2021/05/27

NSFW    TAIPEI, TAIWAN — Remember when collaborators were treated like traitors? Well, China is paying foreign collaborators to spread its disinformation in target countries, and these collaborators are often so-called "influencers" with many followers on social media platforms like Twitter.

That's the finding of a new study published on Monday. The study also found that China pays collaborating news organizations to spread its disinformation. Here are the details:

Taiwanese officials accused China on Monday 24 May of spreading fake news about the COVID-19 situation in Taiwan.

That same day, Taiwan's DoubleThink Lab released a report that details how Chinese government-backed disinformation flooded Taiwan in 2020.

The disinformation amplified discord prior to Taiwan's elections and spread COVID-related rumours aimed at delegitimizing Taiwan's democratic government.

The researchers analyzed thousands of posts to determine their origin, purpose, effect, audience, and mode of spreading.

They found that one tactic China uses is to pay news outlets to repackage Chinese propaganda as real news.

Another tactic is to work closely with real online influencers in the target country to get them to share the disinformation through their platforms.

China also uses websites that aggregate low-quality articles to spread disinformation, often through Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and other platforms.

Another tactic is to mobilize Chinese nationalists to post and amplify disinformation online.

The report concludes that the Chinese government has developed a sophisticated set of disinformation tools that it is deploying inside liberal democracies.

It says that Beijing's disinformation operations in Taiwan follow a set pattern, which is also being deployed elsewhere.
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