At a glance.
- Twitter flags domestic influence operations.
- Beijing's interest in controlling international Zoom sessions related to Chinese domestic issues.
Domestic influence operations in China, Russia, and Turkey.
Twitter this morning has called out three state-run influence campaigns, all with a domestic focus.
Twitter has identified a large number of state-run accounts pushing disinformation. The largest network was Chinese-controlled: 23,750 "core accounts" that were highly active in distributing Beijing's line on various issues, with special attention given to matters affecting Hong Kong. A large number of "amplifier accounts," about 150,000, repeated the core account's traffic. The content was for the most part in Chinese and evidently addressed to a largely domestic audience. Twitter says that despite the accounts' high level of activity, they enjoyed relatively few followers and had achieved little traction.
Twitter also identified 1152 Russian accounts associated with the Current Policy state-run news site; these were engaged in distributing messages favoring the Russia United Party in an influence campaign directed toward domestic audiences.
Also interested in domestic influence were 7,340 accounts in Turkey whose line favored President Erdogan and the AK Party.
China's exertion of influence on Zoom?
The Telegraph and other outlets report that Zoom, having locked out account holders after they held online discussions commemorating the thirty-first anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, is drawing criticism for aligning its services with Chinese policy. The Wall Street Journal notes that the activist group affected, San Francisco-based Humanitarian China, had its access quietly restored after the suspension was reported by Axios.
The company has said it pulled the accounts in compliance with local laws, that is, with Chinese law. Zoom has also expressed its regrets and said it “will not allow requests from the Chinese government to impact anyone outside of mainland China.” The company intends to do this by upgrading its systems to permit it to identify the locations of meeting participants, and selectively blocking them on the basis of where they were.
Many critics remain unmollified, asking with Security Boulevard, "Is Zoom the next Huawei?" That’s strong, but as Security Boulevard’s blogwatch summarizes, Zoom may be headquartered in San Jose and listed on the NASDAQ, but the firm does have significant operations in China, including a large engineering staff and a practice of routing users’ traffic through servers in that country.