April 26, 2024 | POLITICO

Elise Thomas on the new tactics used by pro-CCP ‘Spamouflage’ network, “real shift and really concerning”

ISD Senior Analyst Elise Thomas is a guest on the Politico Tech podcast this month discussing her recent investigation on the new tactics being used by the pro-CCP network known as ‘Spamouflage’.

In a conversation with host Steven Overly, Elise talked about her experience monitoring the long-running pro-CCP influence campaign. She explained how while doing her research, she “came across a small number of innovations […] one of them in particular was very concerning.”

“The thing to know about Spamouflage is that while they’ve always historically operated at enormous scale and we’re talking thousands, potentially tens of thousands of accounts across dozens of websites and platforms […] they’ve always been incredibly ineffective. You know, they are very, very bad at generating real engagement from real people,” Elise said.

However, Elise explains how the network is now using new tactics that could make it significantly more effective: “I found a small number of accounts which were posing convincingly as Americans, convincingly as Trump supporters […] and engaging with real users.”

“They were building this authentic audience and then they were posting these sort of pro-Trump memes, pro-Trump news, and sort of anti-woke stuff […] they were getting real engagement […] from real people in like significant numbers, incredibly from Alex Jones once. And that is a real shift and really concerning,” she said.

Elise notes that it is possible that other undetected accounts within the network are experimenting with the same tactics: “As I said, it was only a small number of accounts we found were doing this, but obviously you kind of pair up the fact that these accounts were kind of hard to detect with the fact that we know this is an actor that likes to operate at massive scale and it would be kind of out of character for them to only have a small number of accounts doing something like this.”

“They could absolutely be doing this on the other side as well, we just haven’t found those accounts yet,” she said, referring to the fact that there could be Spamouflage accounts using similar tactics in support of Biden.

The episode from 11 April is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Politico’s website.