[Presumably] Chinese social media accounts swarming foreigners

It’s far too early to say what this means, but it’s unusual activity so it’s worth acknowledging.

There have been a few cases of what look to be Chinese accounts mass following or mass tweeting the Twitter accounts of foreigners.

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Social media trolls and partisans are prolific in China, and in Taiwan – which of course China regards as its own.

But these cases are notable because they reach outside of the Chinese language sphere.

Last year Australian freelance journalist and communications professional Asher Wolf wrote that she “got flooded by a bunch of Chinese bots tweeting at me in Mandarin.”

Some tweets seemed to be about Guo Wengui, also known as Miles Kwok, the billionaire Chinese businessman who has fallen afoul of the CCP and lives in the US.

Wolf had also recently published an opinion piece about Australia’s foreign donation legislation, China and the U.S.

Here is an example:

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But there have been some more recent examples outside of China’s periphery, as well.

Over in Canada, Aaron Wytze notes that Hong Kong-watchers are being mass followed.

UK-based Daniel Tudor, whose account identifies him an author of books on Korea, has also posted that he had seen an uptick.

Clearly, in these cases, the connection may be the targeted account holders’ interest in matters that concern China. Wytze’s Twitter profile says he “writes about the intersection of tech and politics in East Asia” and edits the Taiwan Gazette.

If these Twitter follows are a prelude to broader strategy to shape global perceptions around sensitive matters for the Chinese Communist Party, don’t be surprised.

This is the nature of information security from an authoritarian nation.

“Control of information has been central to the Party’s strategy since it first came to power,” writes Shanthi Kalathil of the Center for International Media Assistance.

In a time of globalization and the internet, it’s perhaps inevitable this desire to control would flow to where the discussion is occurring – even if overseas by non-Chinese, and non-ethnic Chinese people.

Of course, that intention collides headlong into democratic notions of freedom of expression and freedom of thought in many Western nations.

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How the Tech World Aids Russia’s War on the West: a SXSW talk

Here is the audio on my talk at SXSW 2018.

Listen to it for a cohesive picture of how the tech world evolved with such vulnerability to Russian influence campaigns. I discuss Snowden, tech culture, counterculture, libertarianism, free speech and anonymous speech.

I conclude with a short observation about democracy online in the future. Then there is some Q and A.

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Speaking at SXSW 2018

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Russia’s ‘extremely long view’ of influence ops

To understand Russia’s disinformation operations and political influence efforts, you must understand their patience for these matters.

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Former Foreign Service Officer Dennis Kux, in 1985, writing on Soviet active measures:

“Moscow takes an extremely long-term view of these operations. The Soviets do not necessarily seek immediate gains and are not looking for a major impact from every effort. They are satisfied that the cumulative effect of periodic successes outweighs failures and misfires and makes their considerable investment of people and money worthwhile.”

In the modern time, it potentially explains the patience around US election meddling – years in the making – and the cultivation of the image of Edward Snowden.

Kux also appears in the video below:

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