The Associated Press investigation named Liu Xiaoming (pictured) as having an account filled with fake followers.
A seven-month investigation by the Associated Press and the Oxford Internet Institute, part of the University of Oxford, found that China’s rise on Twitter has been driven by an army of fake accounts that mass retweet content from Communist Party diplomats and official media to expand their influence. (By Lu Xi)
The report cites Liu Xiaoming, who just stepped down as the Communist Party’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, as an example. He joined Twitter in October 2019 and quickly built a “war wolf” profile, gaining more than 119,000 followers. His series of Twitter posts were retweeted more than 43,000 times from June last year to February this year.
Reports suggest that Liu and other Chinese Communist diplomats have garnered massive support on Twitter, partly fabricated. According to an investigation by the Associated Press and the Oxford Internet Institute, half of the retweets Liu received between June of last year and January of this year came from accounts that had been suspended for violating Twitter norms. More than one-tenth of the tweets retweeted by the 189 Chinese diplomats during this time period came from accounts that had been suspended before March 1.
Some fake accounts posed as British citizens and continued to promote official Communist Party opinion, many of which continued to generate more than 16,000 retweets and replies. Twitter did not permanently suspend the fake accounts until late last month and early this month, in response to an investigation by the Associated Press and the Oxford Internet Institute, citing human manipulation.
The Associated Press said such fictitious popularity could boost the CCP’s popularity, create the illusion of many people’s support, and also distort the platform’s algorithm to allow more real users to see the CCP government’s propaganda.