Jan 26, 2023
Pro-China Propaganda Group Tried, Failed to Go Viral on Google
(Bloomberg) -- Alphabet Inc.’s Google blocked more than 50,000 pieces of content shared by a China-linked propaganda network last year, the company said Thursday.
The group, known alternatively as “Spamouflage Dragon” and “Dragonbridge,” spread spam and social media posts with political content that aligned with Beijing’s interests, researchers said in a blog post. Some accounts attempted to spread allegations that monkeypox originated in the US, that expatriate Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui funded pro-democracy protests in Honk Kong, while others suggested an “armed reunification” with Taiwan, according to Google’s Threat Analysis Group.
The content failed to gain traction, finding “practically no organic engagement from real viewers,” researchers noted.
Most of Dragonbridge’s YouTube channels had zero subscribers and more than 80% of its videos had fewer than 100 views. Almost all of Dragonbridge’s posts on Blogger had fewer than 10 views.
Nonsensical images, garbled audio and sloppy editing were a recurring feature and “likely a contributing reason they have not gained an organic audience,” Google said of the propaganda effort.
Cybersecurity company Mandiant, which Google acquired in 2022, has been tracking Dragonbridge since 2019.
The same spam campaign authored clumsy videos in 2020 that criticized former US President Donald Trump, the social media analysis firm Graphika Inc. previously reported. Operators also used artificial intelligence-generated images in their social media profiles, researchers said at the time.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment.
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