Pro-China Accounts Use Capitol Riot Footage to Condemn Democracy

An network of hundreds of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube fake accounts devoted to spreading pro-China propaganda messages and videos used the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol to spread messages denigrating democracy, researchers found.

The accounts leveraged the event as evidence “that the democratic system practiced in the United States is in an irreversible state of disintegration and decline,” Graphika Inc., a social media analysis firm said, in a Thursday report.

Within 17 hours of the protests, the network of fake accounts had made a video with footage from the riot -- the first of multiple related videos arguing that “the U.S. system is self-evidently too fragile, unable to handle 21st century challenges, and especially not suitable for ‘export’ to other countries,” Graphika found.

Graphika, which first found and exposed the network in 2019, hasn’t determined who is behind the accounts, but its “messaging tracks very closely with Chinese government messaging,” said Ben Nimmo, one of the authors of the report and the head of investigations at the firm. For example, like China’s state media, the accounts posted content suggesting that America’s condemnation of the riot was hypocritical because U.S. leaders had praised pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Nimmo said.

The network of inauthentic accounts has “reconstituted itself after repeated takedowns,” by social media companies, according to Graphika. The Thursday report found that it has gained influence since 2019, leading Graphika to characterize it “a persistent and increasingly assertive online presence with a limited but growing ability to engage real users.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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