Tech and Science

Chinese social media campaigns successfully impersonate US voters, Microsoft warns

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech in Beijing, China, April 24, 2023.

Xinhua News Agency | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Chinese state-directed influence and disinformation campaigns are posing as U.S. voters and targeting political candidates on multiple social media platforms with increasing sophistication. Microsoft said in a Threat analysis report Thursday.

“The CCP-affiliated covert influence operations have now begun to more successfully target their audiences on social media, on a larger scale than previously observed,” said the report, which focuses on the rise of “digital threats from East Asia.”

The Microsoft report also warned that some Chinese influence campaigns are now using generative AI to create visual content that “already elicits higher levels of engagement from authentic” users, a trend the company said began around March.

Chinese influence campaigns have historically had difficulty gaining traction with their intended targets, which in this case are U.S. voters and residents. But since the 2022 midterm elections, these efforts have become more effective, Microsoft warned.

Policymakers and industry experts have expressed concern about foreign influence campaigns on social media platforms, particularly on X, formerly known as Twitter. In December, three Democratic House members called on X owner Elon Musk to provide information about manipulation campaigns on the platform.

Microsoft has found content from Chinese influence campaigns in several apps, including meta Facebook and Instagram, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn and

Microsoft's report included screenshots of two different X posts from April that were identified as CCP-related disinformation. Both were about the Black Lives Matter movement and had the same graphics. The first came from an automated account linked to the CCP. The second, Microsoft said, was uploaded seven hours later by an account posing as a conservative US voter.

The operations identified by Microsoft had similarities to those allegedly carried out by an elite group within China's national security apparatus, the company said. That organization, the 912 Special Working Group, was identified by the Justice Department in April as the perpetrator of a campaign of harassment against Chinese nationals across the U.S. government calculated 44 defendants, including 34 officials from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.

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