• Chinese social media accounts are spreading disinformation before the 2024 presidential election.

  • The accounts mirror previous Russian tactics, sowing doubts about US leadership and democracy.

  • Trump approved a 2019 CIA operation to negatively influence Chinese social media.

Chinese social media accounts are increasingly spreading disinformation ahead of the 2024 US presidential election in November.

The New York Times reported Monday that the US government and researchers are warning about the digital threat and how it mirrors previous Russian tactics.

The report described several Chinese government-linked accounts — sometimes referred to as “Spamoflage” — pretending to be avid Republicans and fans of former President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, with some accusing Democratic President Joe Biden of being a “Satanist pedophile.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s “Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community,” published in February, warned that People’s Republic of China has “increased their capabilities to conduct covert influence operations and disseminate disinformation.”

“The PRC aims to sow doubts about US leadership, undermine democracy, and extend Beijing’s influence,” the report said. “Beijing’s growing efforts to actively exploit perceived US societal divisions using its online personas move it closer to Moscow’s playbook for influence operations.”

As the ODNI noted, this wouldn’t be the first time foreign actors have attempted to meddle in US elections through covert social media tactics. In 2016, Russian troll farms relentlessly posted election-related disinformation on Facebook, Twitter (now X), YouTube, Instagram, and even Pokémon Go.

The ODNI report also noted that the spread of disinformation may not end even if the Chinese government tries to put a stop to it.

“Even if Beijing sets limits on these activities, individuals not under its direct supervision may attempt election influence activities they perceive are in line with Beijing’s goals.”

The US government has some experience of its own meddling in foreign social media channels.

In March, Reuters reported that Trump authorized a CIA program to spread unflattering narratives about the Chinese government across Chinese social media.

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