Home » Chinese bots flood Twitter with porn images to cover student protests

Chinese bots flood Twitter with porn images to cover student protests

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Chinese bots flood Twitter with porn images to cover student protests

A coordinated action. Born to create noise and prevent the spread of the voice of protests in Chinese universities. Hundreds of thousands of Twitter accounts were reportedly activated on Sunday to prevent the spread of slogans and images of Chinese students calling for an end to restrictions against the Covid-19 pandemic. The Washington Post highlighted this, but you can verify what is reported by searching the hashtags of cities and universities on twitter: #Tsinghua, #Beijing #Dalian, #Shanghai, just to name a few.

The technique used by the bots, probably linked to the Chinese government

The technique used by what to all intents and purposes look like bots is quite simple: porn photos, ads for escorts and gambling sites, shared en masse with the hashtags of the names of cities and universities. The result is that the Twitter search engine is flooded with these ads with links to dating sites. Accounts thought to be linked in some way to the Chinese government.

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Hard to prove it. But it seems fairly certain that the action of these bots must have taken place in the last 24 hours, before waning in the early hours of Monday as to find these posts you have to scroll through quite a bit of the Twitter timeline. While the dramatic images of the clashes between protesters and the police are now back among the first results.

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Twitter in difficulty to stem the phenomenon. The cuts are heavy

The action has not only disturbed the protests of the students, who on Twitter have one of the few windows on the world from which they can tell the convulsive days of the protests. But it would have put Twitter’s anti-spam team in serious difficulty, severely reduced after the wave of layoffs decided by the new owner, Elon Musk. However, the team has stemmed the action, given the results that can be seen from searches on the social network.

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This isn’t the first time accounts suspected of being linked to the government have used this technique, a Twitter employee who recently left the company told The Washington Post. But in the past it has been used to discredit a single account or a small group by naming them in escort ads. This would therefore be an unprecedented leap in quality, motivated by the need to save the image of the Beijing government in the eyes of the world.

Testimonials on Twitter

“This is a known issue that our team was tackling manually, aside from the automations we’ve put in place,” the former employee told the newspaper. With the layoffs and mass resignations, Twitter’s overall staff was cut from about 7,500 to about 2,000, according to estimates by employees who survived the layoffs.

The ‘disturbance’ campaign has been identified by researchers at Stanford University. Stanford Internet Observatory director Alex Stamos said his team is working to determine how widespread and effective it is. Stamos on Twitter has released various analyzes that would demonstrate how it is in all respects an “intentional attack”, aimed at “reducing the external visibility of the protests in China”, where in any case Twitter is blocked, even if many circumvent the restrictions using a vpn.

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