February 15, 2024 | NYT & WaPo

Pro-CCP influence campaign aims to sow division, portray chaos in US ahead of elections

The New York Times covers our recent investigation on the pro-CCP influence campaign known as Spamouflage, its recent online activity, the incorporation of AI and how it may affect elections in the US and abroad.

The long-running network is notable among researchers for its “sprawling size, and its failure to generate any noteworthy engagement from real social media users.” As of lately, the pro-CCP network, largely active on X/Twitter but also on other platforms, has been focusing on portraying the presidential elections as a source of division for the US, communicating negative narratives around Joe Biden, posting ambiguous Trump narratives that could be interpreted positively by his followers and spotlighting both candidates’ older ages.

While the posts themselves have relatively low engagement, it is useful to analyse in order to better understand the angle which “CCP propaganda operations are taking at this early stage in the US electoral cycle,” writes report author Elise Thomas.

In America’s “hyper-polarized division,” China sensed an opportunity, said Elise to the NYT. “Spamouflage’s focus on social conflict and antagonism in the US presidential race could also signal how Beijing hopes to shape the many other important elections taking place in the world this year.”

“In this narrative universe, American democracy is painted as a source of discord and weakness […]. They are seeking to create a sense of a sclerotic superpower in disarray, incapable of resolving its internal problems and unfit to act as a leader on the international stage.”

Our report is also referenced by the Washington Post in their article on foreign-entity controlled propaganda accounts flourishing on X in attempts of influencing US politics. Elise is quoted regarding the content shared: It “appears aimed at creating a sense of dismay over the state of America without any clear partisan bent. It focuses on issues like urban decay, the fentanyl crisis, dirty drinking water, police brutality, gun violence and crumbling infrastructure.”