The Alliance for Securing Democracy, an independent organisation operating in the United States, just a few weeks earlier has launched a monitoring of misleading information in China. A new version of the “Hamilton” dashboard, which has so far been used to track Russian disinformation, has been developed for this purpose. The AI based tool “Debunk”, created by Lithuanians, has previously been included in “Hamilton” to monitor Russian information channels, and consequently, this cooperation has been extended to China’s disinformation monitoring.
According to Viktoras Dauksas, Head of “Debunk”, as the world is strengthening the resources in recognizing, analyzing and combating false information, the Lithuanians can be helpful not only with advice, but also real tools. “Without any exaggeration, by constantly facing the disinformation attacks of our unfriendly neighbour Russia, we have happened to become one of the most advanced country in this field, therefore today we can provide well developed tools of artificial intelligence. Alliance for Securing Democracy was our first international project that continues to expand and include additional countries in monitoring. Currently, the “Debunk” tool is also being used to monitor the communication in North Macedonia, and later this year we plan to expand our services to the Baltics and other European countries.”
Experts of Alliance for Securing Democracy are using “Hamilton” dashboard to monitor and analyze “Twitter” accounts of Chinese diplomats and media, state-sponsored news portals, “Youtube” and official diplomatic accounts. The analysis of these sources has enabled them to systematize and reveal changes in China’s communication recently.
Bret Schafer, media and digital disinformation expert at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, says the coronavirus pandemic has spurred a global information contest:
“China has employed increasingly aggressive tactics and techniques in a battle for narrative supremacy. We have been able to see, in near-real time, Chinese state-backed media and government interlocutors borrowing a page from the Russian playbook in an attempt to influence global public opinion.”
Experts of the U.S.–based organization have analyzed that since the start of the Hong Kong protests, Chinese officials have become increasingly active on Western social media platforms. Since April 2019, the number of “Twitter” accounts connected to Chinese embassies, consulates, and ambassadors have increased by more than 250 percent with the largest surge at the end of year.
The analysis showed that China’s communication has been changing with the spread of COVID-19 in Europe. In the early stages of the outbreak, official Chinese messaging largely focused on human-interest stories and reporting on the Chinese government’s efforts to control the virus. From the end of February, the content has changed and Chinese diplomatic and embassy accounts started promoting conspiracy theories from fringe websites. Those different, even contradictory, theories featured content about the origins of the virus and criticism to the countries’ response to the outbreak. China has also taken an active role in promoting itself as the global humanitarian player.
Analysis of the data collected by “Hamilton” dashboard also revealed that Chinese channels piggyback off of Iranian and Russian propaganda networks. For example, several individuals associated with Russian government-funded outlets or pro-Kremlin websites were among the 100 most retweeted accounts by Chinese accounts monitored on the dashboard. More insights from the Alliance for Securing Democracy can be found HERE.
The Hamilton interactive platform is publicly available HERE.