According to a recent Wall Street Journal investigation, academics believe China’s online propaganda machine is swarming Twitter to influence the #GenocideGames trend related to the communist country’s Winter Olympics.
Manipulation and Misinformation
Pro-China account holders are trying to manipulate the #GenocideGames Twitter hashtag to confuse users and make it more difficult for activist groups to use it.
The tag has been used by human rights advocates and Western parliamentarians to raise public awareness about the Xinjiang area of China; officials have been undertaking forced integration attempts against minority religions like Ughyur Muslims.
Pro-China groups began posting spam-like information under the hashtag in late October, according to Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren, lecturers at Clemson University’s Media Forensics Center.
According to the scientists, this is an attempt to make it more difficult for activists to organize around the slogan. This approach is known as “hashtag flooding.”
Its main goal is to diminish the impact of a popular hashtag by displaying extraneous content alongside legitimate notifications and data to Twitter users searching for the word.
Between letting doping cheaters compete, excusing genocide, snowless dystopian ski jump it’s been an unmitigated failure.
And that’s why you don’t hold international sporting events in fascist dictatorships #GenocideGames #OlympicGames #OlympicFlop https://t.co/FVU6e44aAQ
— misterian (@MisterianZajac) February 15, 2022
“The Chinese propaganda machine has been particularly focused on preserving their image about the mistreatment of the Uyghurs, as well as marketing the Olympics,” Linvill said.
This tag sits at the crossroads of those two concepts. Pro-China accounts make it more difficult for human rights supporters to access relevant content.
Meanwhile, one goal of hashtag flooding is to have Twitter’s tracking system classify the tag as spam, causing content linked to the topic to be removed.
According to Linvill and Warren, the hashtag #GenocideGames was used in more than 132,000 Twitter posts between October 20 and January 20.
Around 67 percent of the comments are no longer available. A Twitter spokeswoman indicated some of these comments were removed in accordance with the company’s spam and platform abuse policies.
The Same Old Tricks
The identities were also part of a China-backed propaganda campaign detected by Twitter in December, according to the spokesman.
🚨TONIGHT🚨: join our panel with @nathanlawkc, @MichaelPolakLaw, @chemilhamoooo and @MahmutRahima on how activists in exile have resisted the #GenocideGames and how they will keep fighting for justice. https://t.co/aDLqhilzWz
— Stop Uyghur Genocide (@UyghurStop) February 15, 2022
Twitter has previously done little to counter China’s social media disinformation campaign. Liu Xiaoming, one of the representatives of China’s social media push, has previously been profiled by Breitbart News.
Liu amassed a fan base of more than 119,000 users as the face of China’s new sharp-edged “wolf warrior” policy, a moniker derived from the title of a famous Chinese action film.
“As far as I see it, there are really ‘wolf fighters’ because there are ‘wolves’ in the world and you need fighters to combat them,” Liu, who is now China’s Special Envoy on Korean Peninsula Issues, tweeted in February.
From June to February, his tweets, which mostly consist of strong rebuttals to Western anti-Chinese prejudice, were retweeted over 43,000 times. However, as per AP News, much of Liu’s and his coworkers’ backing may be fabricated.