Chinese trolls and Fake news websites have attacked the BBC in an attempt to undermine its credibility, according to a new study released today. Online influence operation, which is linked to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), apparently in response to BBC reports of human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims and state-sponsored disinformation campaigns.
the new search Analysts at cybersecurity firm Recorded Future say the “likely state sponsored” operation used hundreds of websites and social media accounts to attack BBC reports. In particular, the network accused the BBC of adding a “filter” to its reports from China to make the country dull and lifeless.
Propaganda campaign claims the BBC used a “dark filter” or “underground filter” and widely promoted this view, says Charity Wright, a threat intelligence analyst who conducted the research for the Insikt group by Recorded Future. “What struck me most was the reach of this campaign: the scale, the number of posts and the volume of this particular story that we found,” Wright said. Social media posts, malware websites and official spokespersons have pushed the idea of dark or underground filters, Wright adds.
Recorded Future researchers cite a number of reasons why they are convinced the campaign is sponsored by the Chinese state. The volume of activity, a clear narrative against the BBC that matches CCP policy, “coordination through the Chinese state-sponsored media apparatus” and the use of Mandarin and foreign language content all have contributed to its decision. “The campaign’s alignment with the CCP’s goals creates a clear picture of how the CCP conducts large-scale information operations to counter criticism and censor foreign media,” the research concludes.
The operation is apparently part of a broader crackdown on what Chinese officials see as unfair criticism from the international media. In February, BBC World News was banned from broadcasting in China.
But Recorded Future’s research reveals a more secretive side to China’s attack on Britain’s national broadcaster. In the past few weeks, the cybersecurity firm has identified 57 websites claiming the BBC has altered its images of China, Wright said. “What I saw was that a lot of their podcast interviews and photos accusing the BBC of this activity were happening on very random fringe websites,” says Wright. “Some of them are associated with adware and malware. Then some just seem to look like Chinese or English news websites. She explains that the details of the “dark filter” on sites were often a paragraph of text among other stories. “It was the same story over and over again, which made this campaign very easy to identify. He did not list the sources, did not list the perpetrators. It was just blurb.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In the past six months, there have been more than 11,000 Mandarin references to the “dark filter” on social media, more than half of them in the past 30 days, Recorded Future found. English mentions of the ‘BBC’s Underworld Filter’ have also increased in the past six weeks. Across eight different social media platforms (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Weibo, WeChat, Bilibili, Douyin), there have been over 56,300 uses of the phrase.
Some accounts used generic profile pictures such as animal or campaign pictures, Wright said, adding that the accounts appeared to work in groups. “There were five to ten accounts supporting each other [in some instances] and defend yourself in the comments against the West, ”she said. “What we’ve seen in the past with these types of campaigns is that they want to target an English speaking western audience,” says Wright. “They also want to target the Chinese diaspora around the world. The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.