China Disinformation Profile
Foreign Disinformation Operations
- Operation Naval Gazing 2016-2020 (target Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, U.S.)
- Interference in U.S. 2020 Presidential Election
- Spamouflage (2017~18 to present) (target unclear)
China Domestic Disinformation
China's Media Environment
Media in China is very highly controlled by the CCP. The CCP tries to restrict access to foreign press, and the internet has a "firewall" which prevents websites and content which the CCP do not approve of from being accessible. The world press freedom index ranked China as number 177 out of 180 countries. In 2017 54% of Chinese people had access to the internet, however a significant amount of content is blocked and requires a VPN to access.
China's 50-cent army
China has been accused of hiring as many as 2,000,000 people to write deceptive posts on social media under pseudonyms that are designed to look like ordinary users. This group which has been titled the 50-cent party (or army) and posts in support of the Chinese Communist Party. In 2017 King et al. estimated that this group posts 448 million social media comments a year. King et al. allege that the central tactic of this group is not to argue with government critics but to distract attention away from controversial topics and portray the CCP in a positive light.
Many fake Chinese accounts have targeted Hong Kong protestors and spread disinformation about the political dynamic in Hong Kong. In August 2019 Twitter banned 936 users and Google banned 210 Youtube channels because the platforms found these were part of a disinformation campaign to discredit pro-democracy protestors.
Early in the Pandemic the Chinese government detained whistleblowers who were spreading accurate information about the pandemic.
Beijing has actively worked to promote a narrative that it was in control of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic and it has worked to silence activists who offer counter-narratives online. The Chinese government actively spread the rumor that COVID-19 was created by the U.S. government both domestically and abroad.
- Gary King, Jennifer Pan, and Margaret E. Roberts. 2017. “How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument.” American Political Science Review, 111, 3, Pp. 484-501.