Chinese authorities are hiring fake social media accounts to manage public opinion and conduct overseas surveillance on Chinese citizens, according to an investigation by The New York Times.
Shanghai police posted notices in May 2021 for tech firms to bid on a contract for “public opinion management,” according to the Times, in which they would provide fake social media profiles and post content on multiple different platforms.
“Suppliers should provide accounts on overseas social platforms to purchasers at any time,” one of the notices read, according to a translation by the Times. “The platforms include Twitter, Facebook, etc., and the supplier should provide about 300 accounts per month on each platform.”
The accounts are expected to remain on platforms for a significant amount of time, generating organic engagement from real users. Some profiles are expected to regularly post original content, including at least 20 videos a month, the Times reported.
Chinese authorities are also asking contractors to provide accounts capable of tracking down users on tech platforms like Twitter and Facebook to find their “real information.”
“Suppliers search for accounts on overseas platforms that publish certain content (the specific content may vary, subject to actual content),” one notice read. “Use technological means to find an account’s real information in China and obtain the user’s information in China.”
The bid for the contract was won by Chinese technology firm Shanghai Cloud Link, according to documents translated by the Times,
The report follows actions taken by Twitter and Facebook to remove hundreds of fake accounts spreading information downplaying the Chinese government’s role in the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, as well as claims that U.S. officials were intimidating World Health Organization scientists to attribute COVID-19 to China.
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