Hundreds of Fake Twitter Accounts Linked to China Sowed Disinformation Prior to the US Election, With Some Continuing To Amplify Reactions to the Capitol Building Riot
By Crime & Security Research Institute
01 February 2021
A sophisticated China-linked social media operation played a key role in spreading disinformation during and after the US election, a report from Cardiff University concludes.
The study, from the Crime and Security Research Institute, shows evidence of the network’s activities reaching a wide audience, most successfully through a now debunked viral video that was later shared by Eric Trump, son of former US President Donald Trump, falsely showing ballots being burned on election day.
Researchers also found evidence of the same network spreading anti-US propaganda which amplified calls for violence before and after the Capitol riot in Washington on 6 January 2021.
Professor Martin Innes, Director of the Crime and Security Research Institute, who leads the Open Source Communications, Analytics Research (OSCAR) research team said: “Although only Twitter can fully certify an attribution, our analysis using open-source traces strongly suggests multiple links to China. Our initial findings suggested that the operation was not especially complex, but as we have dug deeper into the network, we have had to substantially revise our original view. The behaviour of the accounts was sophisticated and disciplined, and seemingly designed to avoid detection by Twitter’s counter-measures. There is at least one example of these accounts helping to propagate disinformation that went on to receive more than a million views.”