A report highlighting Chinese government-backed influence campaigns on social media platforms found that the effort sought to mobilize protests against “racial injustice,” CNN has finally admitted.
The network’s summary of the recently released Mandiant Threat Intelligence and Google report notes how bot accounts linked to a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) disinformation network attempted to incite Asian Americans to protest against racism and those claiming COVID-19 originated in China.
“US officials believe the operation is linked to the Chinese government,” the article adds.
As the CNN article admits:
In April for example, experts saw thousands of fake accounts calling on Asian Americans to protest racial injustice in the US and “disinformation about the virus’ origins.” While experts found no evidence these posts were successful in mobilizing protesters, the report says “it does provide early warning that the actors behind the activity may be starting to explore, in however limited a fashion, more direct means of influencing the domestic affairs of the US.”
The report identifies how the bot network attempted to catalyze a protest on April 24th in New York City:
In April 2021, thousands of posts in languages including English, Japanese, and Korean, images, and videos were posted across multiple platforms by accounts we assess to be part of this broader activity set that called on Asian Americans to protest racial injustices in the U.S. The accounts specifically called on Asian Americans to protest on April 24 in New York City and “fight back” against the purported “rumors” caused by Dr. Li-Meng Yan, Guo Wengui, and Steve Bannon, and in some instances provided an address that they claimed Guo lived at.
Posts shared by the fake accounts included messages such as “the racism is the virus.”
“This direct call for physical mobilization is a significant development compared to prior activity, potentially indicative of an emerging intent to motivate real-world activity outside of China’s territories,” the report says.’
“While experts at Mandiant and Google say they have not seen these specific pro-Chinese accounts wade into election specific content to date, they did warn that the actors responsible could be gearing up for a more expansive disinformation push,” CNN adds. Platforms such as TikTok, however, have been used to sabotage Trump rallies during the 2020 election cycle.
The National Pulse first reported on the existence of a Beijing-backed, online bot army in early 2020, which, at the time, was used to criticize former President Donald Trump and his COVID-19 response.
More recently, over 20 advocacy groups comprising the “Stop AAPI Hate” coalition sent a letter demanding the Biden White House terminate the Department of Justice’s Trump-era “China Initiative” – which identifies and prosecutes Chinese Communist Party espionage operations – and publicly discredit the COVID-19 “lab leak” theory.
No evidence of a quid pro quo over the CCP’s attempts to bolster these campaigns digitally and the campaigns’ attempts to shift U.S. government policy on China has yet emerged.