China’s “wu mao”, or “50 cent”, digital army has been relentlessly attacking the United States – especially the timeline of President Trump – since the onset of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Yesterday I detailed how the real-life bots – named for how much they’re believed to be paid per post, not after the rapper – were spreading conspiracy theories about the coronavirus emanating from the United States.
Today I wanted to show you just how virulent this problem is becoming, especially in a U.S. election year.
“Wu mao” is a term that came to light in 2016. Voice of America reported “[t]he ’50 Cent Army’ is a group of state-backed internet commenters whose numbers have reportedly ranged from 500,000 to two million.”
Now they’re being deployed against President Trump and his coronavirus response.
As yet, major news networks have failed to report on the matter, despite fairly obviously over-hyping attempted Russian interference in the 2016 election.
This, despite wu mao-run accounts clearly targeting and misleading left-wing activists online with repetitive, false narratives.
One wu mao response to a recent Trump tweet garnered 93 retweets and 7,000 likes. While many of the engagements were also from fraudulent accounts, many were not.
The account tweeted: “As a Chinese working in the States, I am deeply worried and upset by Trump’s action. Thank you for speaking up! We work hard, obey any laws but we cannot vote. Please help to prevent the American going down to this hatred dark path!”
The CCP message was echoed by anti-Trump, pro-“#resistance” accounts, as well as Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang fan accounts.
Wu Mao is an insult. A pejorative in the online world.
They routinely target pro-Hong Kong freedom accounts, as well as people who criticize the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its leader Xi Jinping.
I’ve had my own interactions with wu mao since replying to a President Trump tweet that referred to COVID-19 as “the Chinese Virus.”
“CHINESE VIRUS!!!” I replied, before being inundated with abuse – often of the racial variety – by wu mao on behalf of China.
One new account – started in March 2020 – called me, “Indian human scum,” to which I replied, “I’m British. You’re Wumao.”
This sent the account – which now protects its tweets – into a frenzy against me.
“Stop putting dirt on other! How shameful you are! Bad karma will come to you!” the wu mao first replied.
Then another, within two minutes: “Stop demonizing others! Stop put dirt on others! This is You!”
And another, again demanding I stop claiming they were wu mao.
The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
The pattern can be repeated across Twitter, and has been ramping up for weeks.
Wu mao often swing in behind Chinese government apparatchiks on Twitter. Ironic, given ordinary Chinese citizens aren’t allowed to use the platform.
They also appear to be extremely touchy, and angry individuals.
Unlike “Russian bots” which are said to have automated tweets and retweets during the 2016 election, the Chinese “bots” are actually a digital army of real people.
In other words, you can reel them in.
I’ve done it a few times now, and I’ve even started following some and offering them a cash reward for whistleblowing about who pays them and how they operate. One has already replied, broadly incoherently tweeting back at me:
“Why don’t you just f*ck with your mum? She should take the responsibility for raising your as a JOKE. Maybe that’s why you genital-thinking bastards are so stupid ^ ^ oh wait, do you had a real mom? Could you figure out who she is? Or the person just your imagination?”
The account, like the others, then locked themselves.
In the meantime, I’ve reached out to Twitter’s Press Office, but they haven’t yet responded.