A torrent of spam posts advertising escort services flooded Twitter amid protests against China’s Covid protocols, analysts have said, alleging the Chinese government is trying to cover up the scale of the protests.
Searches on the Chinese-language social network for the names of the cities where the anti-lockdown protests broke out revealed an untold number of erotic posts published by Chinese bot accounts.
Twitter was blocked in China by the ruling Communist Party (CCP) in 2009, but users in the country can still access the platform through a VPN or website proxy service and use it to find information that is not subject to the rules. Chinese censors.
Several major Chinese cities, including Shanghai and the capital Beijing, have been rocked by protests in recent days, and researchers at Stanford University believe that bot accounts posting pornography are part of a government effort to thwart the dissemination of information on the social network.
Mengyu Dong, a Chinese-American researcher at Stanford University, posted numerous examples of spam via his Twitter profile, while other users called on the social network’s CEO, Elon Musk, to address the problem.
Researchers at Stanford University highlighted the problem that has caused searches for Chinese cities to be wiped out by a sea of erotic posts from bot accounts.
Mengyu Dong, a Stanford researcher, published several examples
This is one of the countless bawdy posts that are revealed when a Twitter user performs a search for a major Chinese city.
Protesters hold blank white papers during a protest sparked by a fire in Urumqi that killed 10 people in Beijing, China on November 27, 2022.
Students at China’s main Tsinghua University in the capital Beijing protest against COVID lockdown measures
A large number of Chinese-language Twitter accounts came to life on Sunday and began flooding search feeds with risqué images, suggestive videos and links to escort services.
Many of the accounts were created years ago and had been dormant, having posted little to no content.
But as protests swept across the country this weekend, the accounts suddenly started generating thousands of posts a day.
The erotic images and videos included in the posts are accompanied by the names of the cities to ensure that the distraction appears in the searches of those seeking information about the demonstrations.
Thousands of Chinese citizens rose up over the weekend to protest the government’s ruthless zero-covid policy after ten people died in an apartment fire in the city of Urumqi, where residents were enduring their third month of lockdown. total.
Since then, the protests have broadened to include general anti-government sentiment, and there have been startling reports of citizens calling for the resignation of President Xi Jinping.
Twitter users posted multiple examples of the spam accounts and called Twitter and its CEO, Elon Musk, to fix the problem.
Spam accounts posted various images and videos urging Twitter users to visit porn and escort sites.
Students take part in a protest against COVID-19 restrictions at Tsinghua University in Beijing
Police officers block a road during a protest sparked by a fire in Urumqi that killed 10 people in Beijing, China on November 27, 2022.
The sea of spam posts will be a point of concern for Twitter CEO Musk, who has expressed a desire to reduce the number of bot accounts plaguing the platform.
A former Twitter employee claimed that “all China influence operations and Twitter analysts have quit” following the highly publicized acquisition of Musk last month.
“This is a known issue that our team was dealing with manually, in addition to the automations we put in place,” said the former employee, who spoke with the washington post under condition of anonymity.
‘Another exhibit where there are now even bigger holes to fill.’
But the cover-up appeared to be winding down Monday morning, as videos and images from the protest reappeared at the top of search feeds.
A current Twitter employee told the Washington Post that the company had been working on the issue since midday Sunday.
“Fifty percent porn, 50 percent protest,” said a US government contractor and China expert, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence issues.
“Once I got 3-4 feed scrolls” to see posts from earlier in the day, it was “all porn.”
BBC journalist was beaten and arrested ‘for his own good to prevent him from catching covid’ while covering protests that rocked China
A BBC journalist covering historic protests against President Xi Jinping’s lockdown rules in China was arrested and beaten by police officers, and Chinese officials later made the bizarre claim that he was detained for his ‘good’ in case he caught Covid in the crowd.
Shocking footage from anti-government protests in Shanghai shows Edward Lawrence, a cameraman for the BBC’s China Bureau, being dragged away by Xi’s officials as he yells “call the consulate now” to a friend.
Police officers beat and kicked Mr. Lawrence and held him in custody for “several hours” before he was released, as Chinese officials attempted to crack down on the media and protesters in the city.
The British journalist said today that at least one local was arrested after they tried to prevent police from beating him during his arrest.
Shanghai police officers tried to dismiss the arrest as being for Mr Lawrence’s “own good”, claiming he was arrested “in case he caught covid in the crowd”. The BBC dismissed the far-fetched explanation as implausible.
The footage also shows the defenseless journalist on the ground with three aggressive officers in high-visibility jackets standing over him and pulling his arms behind his back.
UK Business Secretary Grant Shapps today denounced the officers’ actions as “unacceptable” and “worrying”. He told LBC radio: “No matter what, press freedom must be sacrosanct.”
Dr Alan Mendoza, chief executive of the Henry Jackson Society human rights group in London, told the Mail: “This latest outrage shows the true face of the Chinese Communist Party regime by attacking all the values the West holds dear.”
“Freedom of the media is essential to our system and the Chinese crackdown on it needs the strongest rebuttal from the UK Prime Minister. This is not the time for you to wobble.
China is facing its biggest anti-government demonstrations since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, with protests in at least seven cities over the country’s strict zero-Covid rules.
The catalyst for the protests was an apartment fire last week in the western city of Urumqi that killed ten people. Many speculated that the city’s Covid sidewalks, parts of which had been blocked for 100 days, had hampered rescue and escape, which city officials denied.
The largest of the demonstrations took place in Shanghai, home to 26 million residents, and many also boldly demanded that President Xi step down.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry insisted today that the government ‘the fight against Covid-19 will be a success’.