Army of fake fans boosts China’s messaging on Twitter

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FILE – In this April 20, 2021 file photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech via video for the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference, in Beijing. A seven-month investigation by the Associated Press and the Oxford Internet Institute, a department at Oxford University, found that the rise of Chinese diplomats on Twitter has been powered by an army of apparently fake accounts that have retweeted their posts tens of thousands of times. The move onto Western social media comes as China wages a war for influence – both at home and abroad — on the internet, which President Xi Jinping has called “the main battlefield” for public opinion. (Ju Peng/Xinhua via AP, File )

BRUSSELS (AP) — A seven-month investigation by the Associated Press and the Oxford Internet Institute, a department at Oxford University, found that China’s rise on Twitter has been powered by an army of fake accounts that have retweeted Chinese diplomats and state media tens of thousands of times.

The accounts covertly amplified propaganda that can reach hundreds of millions of people — often without disclosing the fact that the content is government-sponsored.

The move onto Western social media comes as China wages a war for influence — both at home and abroad — on the internet, which President Xi Jinping has called “the main battlefield” for public opinion.

Twitter and Facebook are blocked inside China.

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