The Chinese government is excelling at spreading misinformation on social media. The army of fake accounts is helping to send the message to the international community.
“The British Embassy in China has spread rumors that the Queen of England is dead.”
The message of the web user “Zhang Peihai” on China’s response Weibo on Twitter was liked thousands of times.
Zhang Bihai, a nickname taken from the trilogy of science fiction Trelegemproblemet, Weibo has more than 800,000 followers. This weekend, he was one of more than 40 million Chinese who wrote that Queen Elizabeth II was dead.
But the 95-year-old British monarch is not dead. The British Embassy made no such request. So what happens?
On Friday, the British embassy in China released a picture of a candle on its Weibo account. The candle symbolizes the night of June 4, 1989, when hundreds of Chinese soldiers killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people in Beijing.
Audited after 20 minutes
The message was quickly removed. According to Christina Scott, this post only took 20 minutes to censor. He is the Deputy Commander-in-Chief at the Embassy.
But the image of the candle quickly reappeared in Weibo. This method is related to the subject “British Queen Died of Disease”.
As of Saturday night, the title had been used almost 42 million times on Weibo. Also “condolence messages” are constructive. Some said the 95-year-old died during childbirth. Others believed that Prince Charles had something to do with the case.
Some Weibo users express that they really believe that Queen Elizabeth is dead, while others see the whole thing as a big joke.
It is common for them not to write about the Beijing massacre. Candle lighting has gone from being a symbol of victims of dictatorship to a symbol of bad humor.
The diplomats appeared on Twitter
In recent years, Chinese authorities have stepped up their information campaign on social media. On Weibo and other Chinese channels, they have full opportunity to control the content. Abroad, too, Beijing authorities are now beginning to take up more space.
In recent years, the number of Chinese official spokespersons on Twitter has increased dramatically, says one New report from Oxford University. At least 270 Chinese diplomats are now on Twitter.
- From June 2020 to February 2021 these diplomats sent 201,382 tweets.
- There were an average of 778 tweets per day on average during this period.
- Their news was liked almost seven million times and received over a million comments.
- They were retweeted 1.3 million times, the report said.
- On Facebook, Chinese diplomats created 34,041 posts during the same period.
Many ambassadors have chosen one Very aggressive tricks There they want to get down the throat of internet users in the countries where they are stationed. Many of these diplomats are referred to as “wolf warriors”. The name is derived from the popular Chinese film.
Their messages spread quickly. Countless fake profiles.
Read Therese Solian’s opinion: If you want to be liked, it’s good to be good
Advertised by the army of fake accounts
Fake Twitter accounts have loved and shared this news tens of thousands of times over the years. The News agency AP writes, Which in collaboration with the University of Oxford in a new report.
Often, fake accounts account for more than half of all tweets receiving such news on Twitter.
Fake accounts spread messages from Chinese spokespersons much faster and to more users than any other user.
This is seen in a completely different way than before from the perspective of the authorities.
– This is a comprehensive campaign system. Now it has also used Western social media, says Anne-Marie Brady A.P.
He is a professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and is considered an expert in Chinese propaganda. Brady believes Beijing officials are succeeding in getting their message across.
– They may not be able to create a positive impression about China, but they help to create the impression that it is not possible to oppose what China is doing to our democracies, he says.
Everything was in place for a historic agreement. Then the Chinese leader did something that had far-reaching consequences.
– Author of Russia
Being active on social media was part of what party leader Xi Jinping demanded of his spokespersons “Tell the history of China in a good way”, Writes AP.
They will also learn from how Vladimir Putin succeeded in his information campaigns. That is the view of Elizabeth Sen, editor of China Brief.
– They are very eager to learn from Russia. Both countries oppose their view of Western propaganda, he writes.
Russia succeeded in its misinformation campaigns in the United States before the 2016 election. Now Chinese officials are showing signs of following suit.
Trying to weaken the reputation of democracy
In Thailand, for example, a video of a prison riot in Ecuador was recently widely shared. But the title was changed to “Black and White Americans Killing Chinese in California.”
It is not clear who changed the title, but the fake version was frequently shared in China before reaching Thailand.
This type of misinformation has become very common. Independent researcher Lily Lee says one of the goals is to create negative feelings in Americans News Service Radio Free Asia.
He says many of the posts also undermine the notion that democracy is a good form of government.
“They do this by praising China or by depicting chaotic events in the United States,” he says.