Chinas Spamouflage Dragon floods social media with fake Trump supporters to sway US elections

Recent revelations by American researchers and government officials have uncovered a disturbing phenomenon, covert Chinese accounts are pretending to be American supporters of former President Donald J. Trump.

They are actively spreading conspiracy theories, exacerbating domestic divisions, and launching attacks on President Biden in anticipation of the upcoming November election. This mirrors Russia’s tactics in the 2016 US Presidential elections but with heightened intensity.

This suggests a potential shift in Beijing’s strategy to influence American politics. Similar to Russia’s tactics before the 2016 election, China appears to be exploiting the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans to undermine the Biden administration’s policies.

Some of these Chinese accounts portray themselves as fervent Trump supporters, with one claiming to be “MAGA all the way!!” while disseminating false information about Biden. Analysts have expressed surprise at the sophistication of this operation, noting that Chinese accounts have never before posed so convincingly as American Trump supporters.

The activity has been attributed to a longstanding network of accounts associated with the Chinese government, known as Spamouflage or Spamouflage Dragon. While these accounts previously shared pro-Beijing content in Mandarin, they have recently begun masquerading as genuine Americans, using American English in their posts.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies has identified 170 fake pages and accounts on Facebook propagating anti-American messages, including criticisms directed at President Biden. These efforts have garnered genuine engagement and have become progressively challenging for researchers to detect.

While the underlying political motives behind these campaigns remain unclear, there are concerns that China may favour a second Trump presidency over a second term for Biden, despite occasional tensions between Trump and China.

China’s actions have triggered concerns within the American government. In February, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) reported China’s expansion of influence campaigns aimed at undermining US leadership and democracy. There are apprehensions that China could employ increasingly sophisticated methods to influence the American election and suppress critics of China.

Online disinformation experts are increasingly concerned as the November election nears. Russia persists in spreading propaganda amidst its Ukraine conflict, complicating efforts to combat false narratives. Meanwhile, China is exploiting existing divisions in American politics, joining divisive debates mainly from a right-wing perspective.

Meta’s major takedown in 2023 targeted “Spamouflage Dragon” accounts linked to the Chinese Communist Party. Google also removed 160,000 accounts related to the group, dubbed “Dragonbridge.” Despite removal efforts, fake accounts persist. The FBI reports increased online targeting of dissidents by China, including stalking and physical threats.

US authorities exposed a Chinese troll farm in 2023, charging 34 officers for harassing US residents. The Ministry of Public Safety allegedly oversaw the farm’s operations, spreading divisive propaganda. The group evolved to use AI-generated avatars and deepfake news anchors for credibility.

Despite efforts, misinformation like a debunked Biden-Ukraine video circulated. Vigilance against foreign interference is crucial for safeguarding democracy. Authorities and social media platforms must step up efforts to counter deceptive practices ahead of the election.


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