China wants to unseat President Donald Trump. It is engaged in massive public diplomacy campaigns as well as surreptitious and malicious use of social media for this purpose.
At the moment, it appears Beijing’s ongoing anti-Trump effort will exceed Russian meddling both this year and in 2016.
Today, Fox News reported that Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said China, engaged in “election influence and interference” and other activities, is the greatest national security threat to America.
Ratcliffe is correct. As an initial matter, Beijing this year has issued, in both Chinese state and Communist Party media, propaganda intending to tar the Trump administration. The volume of newspaper stories, social media postings and pronouncements looks unprecedented.
Moreover, the Communist Party’s Global Times, a tabloid, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry have been engaged in apparently coordinated public disinformation campaigns targeting Trump. Two of these campaigns were especially vicious, one over the coronavirus epidemic and the other in connection with the George Floyd protests. In the later campaign, the Chinese looked like they were trying to stoke racial tension.
Finally, Beijing has unleased its trolls and bots against Trump. This offensive has been multi-faceted. For instance, the New York Times reported that Beijing this March tried to cause chaos in America by spreading, through text messages and social media feeds, rumors that the president would invoke the Stafford Act to lock down the entire country. Beijing obviously knew the coronavirus rumors were false.
In addition, as Fox News reported last week a Chinese operation, dubbed “Spamoflage Dragon,” had been relentlessly attacking the president. YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have taken down its accounts.
Twitter and other sites have periodically purged fake Chinese users. In June, Twitter removed 174,000 of them.
And then there is TikTok, the mobile video-sharing app. Some national security experts believe Beijing changed the TikTok algorithm that curates videos in order to inflame protests this spring. There are hints China targeted, among others, college-attending women.
Specifically, TikTok uses data to curate content to motivate people to act in desired ways. As Paul Dabrowa, an Australian national security expert, wrote in a private note, “weaponized propaganda,” especially when powered by artificial intelligence, “can trigger wars, economic collapse, riots, and protests of all kinds.” “It can,” Dabrowa states, “also destroy the credibility of government institutions and turn a population against itself
Engineers working for Douyin, TikTok’s sister site in China, manage TikTok’s algorithms, including the algorithms determining which videos are shown to users. That access allows the Chinese government to “boost the signal,” in other words, to curate content to get people to act in certain ways.
Beijing may have boosted the signal recently to help teens out to embarrass the president. In June, many American teens, by reserving seats at President Trump’s Tulsa rally with no intention of showing up, used TikTok to substantially reduce attendance.
As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., bragged, in a Twitter reply to then-Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, “Actually you just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign w/fake ticket reservations.
We can be sure that Beijing will continue to play dirty.
There are, in particular, less than 80 days to do so. China can do a lot of damage to President Trump’s campaign — and American democracy — between now and Nov. 3.
Author : Gordon G. Chang