News / Asia

Free Tibet: Fake Twitter Accounts Spread Chinese Propaganda

FILE - A man holds an iPhone as he visits Sina's Weibo (China's version of Twitter) microblogging site in Shanghai.
FILE - A man holds an iPhone as he visits Sina's Weibo (China's version of Twitter) microblogging site in Shanghai.
VOA News

A human rights group says it has uncovered at least 100 fake Twitter accounts used to spread Chinese government's propaganda about Tibet.

The accounts, found by the organization Free Tibet, often used awkwardly constructed Western names and were accompanied by profile pictures that included photographs of American schoolgirls taken by professional photographers. Others used commercial stock images or pictures of dead celebrities.

Free Tibet spokesman Alistair Currie told VOA's Tibetan service many of the fake accounts trace back to the Chinese capital.  

"The accounts that we have identified are completely phony accounts," he said. "They don’t relate to any individuals. Many of these accounts link to a website which is a Beijing-based website of a company which denies knowledge of the accounts. It says it is responsible for the website, but not the fake accounts."

The London-based rights group says the accounts posted English-language articles that attacked the Dalai Lama and that portrayed Tibet as a "contented and idyllic Chinese province."

The New York Times says many of the fake Twitter accounts now appear to be suspended, just hours after the release of the Free Tibet report.

China has gone to great lengths to paint a picture of stability in Tibet, where more than 130 people have set themselves on fire since 2009 to protest Beijing's rule. It blames the Dalai Lama for inciting the self-immolations, a charge he rejects.

The Chinese government has not responded to the allegations found in the report by Free Tibet, which worked with the Times in its investigation.

Free Tibet did not explicitly accuse the Chinese government of setting up the accounts. But in a letter, it urged Twitter CEO Dick Costolo to ensure that the social media service "cannot be used for deceptive propaganda interests of authoritarian regimes in the future."

The campaign group said the accounts are "an act of cynical deception designed to manipulate public opinion regarding an occupied and brutally repressed country."

It is unclear whether the Twitter accounts had any impact on public opinion. But Free Tibet pointed out that one tweet attacking the Dalai Lama had been re-tweeted (shared on Twitter) more than 6,500 times.

By early Tuesday, Twitter had suspended many of the fake accounts found in the report. Free Tibet warned there are likely hundreds more fake accounts that have not been discovered.

Twitter and all other major Western social media are blocked in China, although Beijing's state-run media outlets do have Twitter accounts that disseminate the government's stances on domestic and international issues.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Tibetan service.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Wangchuk from: NY
July 25, 2014 10:55 AM
The CCP spends billions of yuan each year on domestic & foreign propaganda & much of that concerns Tibet. The fake Twitter accounts are new but the CCP also uses thousands of online "commentators" or 50 Cent Party to promote their views/policies in domestic/foreign websites (including VOA). Of course Xinhua, Global Times, China Daily, CCTV are well-known as propaganda agencies of the CCP.

by: ngawang from: in exile
July 22, 2014 1:33 PM
"U can lie to some people some time but u can't lie to all people all the time " may peace prevail on earth. China must change. Great job by the investigation team.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs