Chinese Twitter Bots Use Gambling, Porn to Hide COVID-19 Lockdown Protests

  • Twitter noticed a serious uptick in spam content on Sunday
  • Gambling and porn links are being used to hide protests
  • Elon Musk recently fired thousands of Twitter employees
  • China has issued harsh COVID-19 restrictions in recent months
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Chinese Twitter accounts are flooding timelines with spam content to hide ongoing protests over COVID-19 restrictions. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Chinese spam accounts ruin Twitter news 

The Twitter anti-propaganda team was assigned Sunday to control the spread of Chinese spam material aimed to distract from coronavirus protests in the nation.

advertising a variety of services including gambling, escorts, and adult content

Many Chinese accounts, including previously inactive ones, began advertising a variety of services such as gambling, escorts, and adult content. The tweets were coupled with popular Chinese city names to misdirect Twitter users attempting to learn more about the protests against COVID restrictions.

An ex-Twitter employee revealed that accounts with suspected government ties have utilized this tactic before. Elon Musk’s sweeping rounds of layoffs across the company, though, have lessened the margin for error when trying to combat them.

Growing problems in China

China reported a fifth-straight daily record of 40,347 new COVID cases Sunday, according to the National Health Commission. Parts of the country have been on total lockdown for more than three months, while others were recently subjected to harsher restrictions.

Many anti-lockdown demonstrators were inspired by a fire that left ten people dead in an apartment complex. Firefighters took three hours to extinguish the blaze, which left many blaming lockdowns and lack of staffing for the untimely deaths.

holding mass gatherings in neighborhoods and major cities

Chinese citizens have since been holding mass gatherings in neighborhoods and major cities and calling for the end of the impositions. Several areas have already eased restrictions, though they are still in place all over the mainland. 

It now appears that Chinese Twitter bots are attempting to hide the ongoing chaos. 

“This is a known problem that our team was dealing with manually, aside from automations we put in place,” said the former Twitter staffer. 

Unfortunately, many of the people that were assigned to similar issues in the past may no longer be at the company. Twitter’s staff recently shrunk from roughly 7,500 to around 2,000, thanks to Musk’s ruthless firing cycle. 

“There are now even larger holes to fill,” the ex-employee said. “All the China influence operations and analysts at Twitter all resigned.”

Dealing with online pollution

China has struggled to regain full control of normal operations ever since the pandemic’s inception. Macau, a southern region known for hosting lavish events and high-rolling travelers, has been subjected to constant lockdowns and re-openings by way of a “zero-COVID policy,” which has caused the market to struggle mightily.

Despite the mess, China is still trying to control the optics either by spinning a more positive yarn or seemingly polluting social media with links to nuisance sites. 

aware of the issue and is working towards a solution

A current Twitter employee said that the company is aware of the issue and is working towards a solution. As of late Sunday, posts with videos of protests in Shanghai and other major cities were showing up in search results. 

An anonymous government contractor and China employee said that adult content was the most commonly used piece of content by degenerate accounts.

“Fifty percent porn, 50 percent protests,” said the anonymous expert. “Once I got three to four scrolls into the feed, [it was] all porn.”

Stanford Internet Observatory Director Alex Stamos said that he and his team are working to determine the effectiveness and pervasiveness of China’s campaign.