Thursday Dec 1, 2022
Thursday Dec 1, 2022

How China’s TikTok influencers push propaganda

2022 Mar 30, 10:22, Washington
Clint Watts, president of Miburo, a research firm that tracks foreign disinformation operations, works at his desktop at company headquarters, on March 15, 2022, in New York. Some of China's state media reporters are identifying as travel bloggers and lifestyle influencers on U.S.-owned social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, racking up millions of followers from around the globe. The Associated Press has identified dozens of these accounts, which are part of a network of profiles that allow China to easily peddle propaganda to unsuspecting social media users. (AP Photo)

To her 1.4 million followers on social media, Vica Li says she is a “life blogger” and “food lover” who wants to teach her fans about China so they can travel the country with ease.

“Through my lens, I will take you around China, take you into Vica’s life!” she says in a January video posted on YouTube and Facebook.

But that lens may be controlled by CGTN, the Chinese-state run TV network where she has regularly appeared in broadcasts and is listed as a digital reporter on the company’s website. While Vica Li tells followers she “created all of these channels on her own,” her Facebook account shows at least nine people manage her page.

That portfolio of accounts is just one tentacle of China’s growing influence on U.S.-owned social media platforms, an Associated Press examination has found.

As China continues to assert its economic might, it is using the global social media ecosystem to expand its already formidable influence. The country has built a network of social media personalities who parrot the government’s perspective in posts, operating in virtual lockstep as they promote China, deflect criticism of its human rights abuses and advance Beijing’s talking points on world affairs like Russia’s war against Ukraine.


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