China has developed a sophisticated propaganda machine that is designed to spread its propaganda and disinformation online, according to a former intelligence official who worked on social media and cyber issues.
The People’s Daily, China’s official newspaper, has created a large-scale social media presence, but it has also been able to use the platform to spread misinformation and fake news, said James Ball, who led the State Department’s Bureau of Science and Technology Policy under President Barack Obama.
The government uses social media sites like Weibo, a popular Chinese Twitter-like social network, to spread propaganda, Ball said.
The newspaper’s Chinese editor, Wu Jianhua, also has a number of posts on the platform that are posted under the names of top government officials and state-run media outlets, Ball told Recode.
Some posts are clearly designed to mislead, Ball added.
Other posts are designed to appeal to Chinese citizens who may be sympathetic to the Communist Party, he said.
Some of these posts, which are not necessarily anti-government, have the same goal of attracting more Chinese support and legitimacy, Ball noted.
Ball said the Chinese government has also created a vast network of fake news websites, some of which are aimed at driving up the number of Chinese users who see them.
A number of these websites are run by state-owned media and contain fake news and propaganda.
They often are set up by people who work in the Chinese intelligence or propaganda apparatus, Ball explained.
“The vast majority of them are funded by Chinese government entities, and they tend to be very effective at driving traffic,” Ball said, noting that these fake websites have been around for a long time.
“It’s hard to know if the Chinese have used these kinds of sites or not.
We do know that they have a presence on Weibo.
There are also a number in other Chinese social media, including in the U.S., but we have no way of knowing whether they are in fact run by the Chinese or not.”
Ball said China is using a variety of tactics to influence social media users.
The first is to create false accounts that are easy to fake, Ball acknowledged.
These fake accounts can have hundreds of followers and a very large audience.
“They have created fake accounts, for example, for people that are known to have some type of extremist views.
They can use them to make their messages appear to be coming from a trusted source,” Ball added, noting the Chinese Communist Party is known for having a reputation for creating fake accounts and then using them to disseminate its propaganda.”
When you get a large number of people who have these accounts, you can create the illusion of more followers and an audience.”
China has created more than 1,600 fake accounts on WeChat, a Chinese social network that is used by a small number of Western users, Ball revealed.
The fake accounts have been used to spread the fake news that has been reported by the New York Times and other Western media outlets.
Some are also designed to drive traffic to other accounts, Ball pointed out.
A Weibo account for the Chinese embassy in the United States, which has been suspended after Chinese officials complained about its content, has been used by China’s Ministry of Public Security to spread false news and misinformation, Ball reported.
Another Weibo fake account for a Chinese-American couple, who was arrested in Washington in December, was used by Chinese officials to spread information about the arrest of two Americans, Ball disclosed.
“That fake account is also a tool of the Chinese military and their disinformation operation to sow confusion and confusion, both in the Western and in the Eastern hemisphere, in the run-up to the Olympics,” Ball noted, referring to the annual Asian Games in Sapporo, Japan.
Ball also said China’s propaganda campaign on social networks is largely being coordinated by state media and is part of an overall effort to influence the political and economic landscape of the U:S.
and other countries.
“These platforms are the largest platform in the world, and in China, they’re the largest,” he said, adding that the propaganda is also being distributed through Chinese state media, some state-controlled websites, and through the Internet, as well as through mobile apps.
“There is a lot of activity, not only on social platforms, but also through state-backed platforms, and it’s very, very sophisticated.”
“We don’t know how many people these groups have in China and how many of these are actually in the West, but they are definitely a significant part of the propaganda effort,” Ball stressed.
“China is trying to use these platforms to create a kind of virtual space where people can communicate and create this virtual space that can be used by the propaganda machine to sow the seeds of confusion.”