TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Fake social media accounts have been spreading pro-Beijing propaganda about the coronavirus over Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, a BBC probe has discovered.
A group of more than 1,200 accounts has been posting negative comments about people criticizing Beijing's response to the Wuhan coronavirus while praising China's handling of the outbreak. The accounts show similarities with a pro-China network uncovered by Graphika in April.
Even though no evidence linking the network to the Chinese government was found, the BBC stated that it shares similarities to a Beijing-backed campaign from China that Twitter and Facebook took down last year.
While the network appears to be growing in size, several of the accounts have failed to gain many followers even though they post high volumes of content. The BBC says that many of the suspicious accounts were created between January and May of this year.
According to the BBC, the accounts criticize the American response to the coronavirus, post negative comments about the Hong Kong protests, as well as target exiled property tycoon Guo Wengui, who lives in the U.S. and is critical of the Chinese government.
The BBC discovered more than 1,000 Twitter accounts, 53 Facebook pages, 61 Facebook accounts, and 187 YouTube channels linked to the network.
Actions within the group were found to be closely coordinated, with dozens of accounts posting the same memes and videos in Mandarin and English several times, often within minutes of one another, according to the BBC report. It went on to add that most of the shares, likes, retweets, comments, views, and mentions came from inside the network.
"In this case, it looks like the network is trying to generate a high volume of pro-Chinese government content and then to hide it by surrounding it with spammy content," Ben Nimmo, director of investigations at Graphika, told the BBC.
After the BBC contacted Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube about the network, most of the accounts, pages, and channels were removed.