April 1, 2024 | NYT

Pro-CCP network experiments with ‘MAGAflage’ and ‘fo’ accounts ahead of US elections

ISD Senior OSINT Analyst Elise Thomas has long been following the widespread, but low-impact pro-CCP influence campaign ‘Spamouflage’. Recently, however, she has detected a shift in tactics by the network in order to take advantage of US ‘culture wars’: persuasively posing as right-wing Americans and using real image elements to exploit domestic divisions; changing their handles to include ‘fo’ to indicate ‘follow back’ to increase engagement, while posting over divisive issues. Her findings are featured in the New York Times.

Elise identified four Spamouflage accounts specifically posing as Americans and labeled them ‘MAGAflage’ accounts. One of the identified accounts on X claimed to be “a father, husband and son” who was “MAGA all the way!!”. His posts often promoted MAGA narratives while mocking President Biden’s age and accusing him of being a Satanist paedophile.

“I’ve never seen anything along those lines at all before,” said Elise Thomas to the New York Times.

Elise explained how these new tactics, although still nascent, suggest the network is shifting towards a more subtle and sophisticated approach. “The worry has always been, what if one day they wake up and are effective?” she said. “Potentially, this could be the beginning of them waking up and being effective.”

Spamouflage has long promoted narratives that portray the US as “overwhelmed by chaos.” However, the network appears to have become more successful at generating significant organic engagement from real users. While the scale and impact is unknown at this time, these developments are important to monitor ahead of this year’s US presidential elections.

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