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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs