The Chinese government is reportedly running the world’s largest online disinformation operation, using it to harass and intimidate US citizens, politicians, and businesses, according to a CNN review of court documents and public disclosures by social media companies.
The operation, known as “Spamouflage” or “Dragonbridge,” uses hundreds of thousands of accounts across all major social media platforms to spread disinformation and harass individuals critical of the Chinese Communist Party. The operation has been linked to Chinese police by federal prosecutors and Meta, Facebook’s parent company.
Despite efforts by tech companies to shut down these accounts, new ones continue to emerge, outpacing the efforts to control them.
China’s Quest for Global Influence
The disinformation campaign is part of a broader multi-billion-dollar effort by the Chinese government to shape global information and silence critics of Beijing. The U.S. State Department has stated that this effort has expanded under President Xi Jinping. The victims of this campaign face a barrage of social media posts that aim to instill fear and paranoia. The posts often contain deeply personal and vile attacks, calling the victims traitors and using racist and homophobic slurs.
The operation has been tracked by private researchers for more than four years, but only recently have federal prosecutors and Meta publicly concluded that it has ties to Chinese police.
In the second quarter of 2023 alone, Meta took down nearly 8,000 accounts attributed to this group. Google, which owns YouTube, has shut down more than 100,000 associated accounts in recent years, while X, formerly known as Twitter, has blocked hundreds of thousands of China “state-backed” or “state-linked” accounts.
Despite these efforts, experts warn that the Chinese government will continue to use these tactics to manipulate online discussions and undermine the U.S. and democratic values. The operation is not confined to certain platforms or chatrooms but is expanding across the board. The disinformation campaign is evolving in tactics and themes, and as the U.S. gets closer to the election year, the need to raise defenses and inform people about it becomes more critical.
Read more at CNN.