Dozens of fake news websites and social media accounts pushed pro-China talking points
A Chinese marketing firm hosted a ring of at least 72 fake news sites in 11 languages with corresponding fake social media personas that pushed Chinese
A Chinese marketing firm hosted a ring of at least 72 fake news sites in 11 languages with corresponding fake social media personas that pushed Chinese government talking points, according to research published Thursday.
NBC News has viewed the English-language sites, which obscure their ownership and authors. Their articles frequently criticized the U.S. and the West, and appeared to attempt to smooth over concerns in those countries, such as China limiting democracy in Hong Kong and putting ethnic minority Uyghur citizens into detention camps.
According to Mandiant, the company that produced the report, the sites were hosted on internet infrastructure owned by a Chinese marketing company, Shanghai Haixun Technology.
It’s unclear who would have organized the campaign, and neither a spokesperson for China’s embassy in Washington nor Shanghai Haixun Technology responded to requests for comment. According to Shanghai Haixun’s website, the company offers clients in China the opportunity to get their talking points published on news sites in more than 40 languages and in more than 140 countries, and it boasts that it’s gotten clients covered in English-language news outlets like The Associated Press and Reuters.
The report adds to a growing list of examples of disinformation operations attributed to China, many of which have failed to gain much traction. Dakota Cary, a China analyst at the Krebs-Stamos Group, a cybersecurity company, said the ring of news sites appeared to be a clumsy attempt by a pro-China group to influence Western conversation.