New York Times: Shanghai Public Security Tender Document Reveals How the Chinese Internet Army Manipulates Facebook and Twitter Public Opinion | Position Report

The Pudong Branch of the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau bid for a “public opinion technical service project” in May this year. The New York Times reported that the bidding document stipulates that suppliers must provide overseas social platform accounts including Facebook and Twitter at any time, about 300 per platform per month. , And to publish designated materials on overseas forums and increase the number of views of this post. The bidding documents specify some service fees, including “Overseas social platform account disguise and maintenance” 5,000 yuan per month (the same below). If you can produce original videos, the monthly fee is 40,000 yuan.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China has stated that China will not export an online public opinion guidance model and hopes that critics will abandon discriminatory attitudes and take off their colored glasses.

According to the New York Times, the document reveals how China uses private companies to produce content according to their needs, attract followers, track comments, and promote political propaganda and shape public opinion. Although the mainland still blocks platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, political propaganda and other activities on these platforms are becoming more and more common. The report also stated that after the reporter inquired with the Chinese authorities, the bidding documents had been deleted.

According to New Times reports, the bidding documents stated that the content of the overseas social platform accounts is more time-sensitive. Suppliers must ensure that they can provide disguised accounts for relevant platforms at any time. These “net forces” are mainly responsible for promoting the flow of pro-China posts. For example, like and repost government posts, and sometimes attack accounts that criticize China’s policies. According to the tender, the monthly unit price of “Overseas Social Platform Registration” is 5,000 yuan.

Posting in social forums must ensure traffic

Suppliers must also publish “designated materials” on overseas social forums, and increase the number of views of the posts and “ensure that the posts can be at the front end of the forum.” This operation requires at least 10 service content to be provided every month. The monthly fee for “Overseas Forum Account Registration and Posting” is 5,000 yuan. There have also been reports in the past that China has spotted the characteristics of social media algorithms and used cyber army and fake accounts to “go high” the number of likes or reposts of overseas political propaganda posts. The New York Times pointed out that the example in recent months is the Peng Shuai incident. Some suspected robot account networks have amplified the evidence released by official media reporters, claiming that Peng Shuai is safe, free to go out for dinner, and visit youth tennis tournaments and other activities.

Some fake accounts must be packaged as “premium accounts”

The report also stated that the bidding documents detailed how suppliers should package and maintain these fake accounts, including packaging some accounts into “premium accounts” so that “accounts will survive for a long time,” with a certain number of fans that can be used to promote some materials. The bid document stipulates that each platform must maintain 3 such “premium accounts” every month, and to ensure a certain increase in monthly fans. The number of posts and survival rate of the account shall be counted every week. If the account is frozen, it shall be remedied in time. This is the “Overseas Social Platform Account Disguise and Maintenance” activity, which costs RMB 5,000 per month.

Need to produce designated material and video to publish to domestic and overseas platforms

According to the report, as the cyber army’s manipulation methods have become more mature, the requirements have also increased, not only tracking, sniping, likes, and valley traffic, but also original content. The bidding document requires the supplier to produce a video of the specified material, each with a length of 2-3 minutes. According to New York Times, the Pudong Branch of the Shanghai Public Security Bureau announced in November the details of the winning bid for the “Public Opinion Struggle Original Video Production Project”.

Tracing the identity of overseas dissident accounts

The bid also requires suppliers to investigate Chinese users who publish specific content on overseas platforms. In addition to searching for relevant accounts, they must also use technical means to find out the user’s information in the mainland. The bids for these activities are called “overseas social platform account landing”, and the fee is 9,800 yuan per time. As for “overseas information collection”, a monthly fee of 5,000 yuan is charged.

According to New York Times, China’s Internet police have been tracking users who post dissent on the Internet from time to time. Since 2018, they have launched new sniper operations to track down those Chinese users who crossed the government’s blockade and posted criticisms of the government on Twitter, arresting them, and coercing them. Delete Twitter account. Today, sniping operations have extended to Chinese citizens abroad. According to New York Times, documents show that Shanghai Public Security wants to track down the accounts of these dissident overseas Chinese and find out their relatives and friends in the country. National security or public security personnel can threaten their relatives and friends or arrest them when they return home.

About three weeks after the bid was published, a company called Shanghai Cloud Link won the project. The total unit price of the above-mentioned services was 69,800 yuan per month. According to the Linkedin profile of Wei Guolin, founder of Shanghai Yunlin, the company’s services include industrial big data systems, digital government and smart city solutions. Neither Wei Guolin nor Shanghai Public Security responded to New York Times’ inquiries.

New York Times pointed out that in the past, most contractors sold hardware and software directly to the Chinese authorities, but the second Shanghai Yunlin won the bid, which shows another way of requiring monthly fees to purchase services that continue to manipulate overseas social platforms.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that it will not use misleading propaganda on social media

In May of this year, the Associated Press and the Internet Research Institute of Oxford University in the United Kingdom issued a joint investigation, alleging that a large number of Internet troops used false accounts to repost posts from Chinese diplomats and official media on Twitter, amplifying political propaganda, and attempting to influence global public opinion. Chinese diplomacy The Ministry stated at the time that it would not use deception on social media, nor would it have any misleading propaganda, and would not export an online public opinion guidance model. It hoped that the parties concerned would abandon discriminatory attitudes and take off their colored glasses.

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