China tweet that enraged Australia propelled by ‘unusual’ accounts

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A Chinese official’s tweet of a picture of an Australian soldier who sparked a furious reaction from Canberra was amplified across societal media by odd accounts, of which half were likely fake, ” an Israeli cybersecurity company said.

The digitally altered image of an Australian soldier carrying a bloodied knife to the throat of an Afghan kid was tweeted by China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Monday.

Twitter diminished Australia’s petition to remove the tweet.

The Chinese embassy in Canberra told ABC television on Friday the Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s demand for an apology attracted more attention to an investigation into war crimes from Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.

Cyabra, an Israeli cybersecurity firm, said it was highly likely that an orchestrated campaign had promoted Zhao’s tweet.

Cyabra said it had discovered 57.5percent of balances that participated with Zhao’s tweet were fake, and “evidence of a largely orchestrated disinformation campaign” to amplify its message.

The company did not offer any information about who was behind the effort.

Cyabra said it analysed 1,344 profiles found that the huge amount were made in November and used once, to retweet Zhao’s tweet.

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China known as Cyabra’s statement “unwarranted.”

Twitter has its own rules managing tweets,” the Foreign Ministry said late on Friday in response to questions from journalists at our partner news agency, Reuters.

The Queensland University of Technology’s Tim Graham analysed 10,000 answers to Zhao’s tweet.

Accounts originating in China were the very active, he said, and 8% of answers were from accounts created on the afternoon, or in the 24 hours prior. Many included duplicated text.

“If there’s enough of them, those irregularities suggest they were set up for a particular campaign.”

Some of the accounts had already been identified by Graham at a data-set of all 37,000 Chinese accounts targeting Australia since June, he explained.

Ariel Bogle, a researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said she had noticed “unusual behaviour” by Twitter accounts or enjoying Zhao’s tweet.

“There was a spike in accounts created on November 30 and December 1,” she told journalists, adding it was too early to ascertain if it was coordinated inauthentic behaviour or patriotic people.

Many of the new accounts only followed Zhao, plus one or two other accounts, she explained. A third of accounts liking Zhao’s tweet had zero followers, ASPI noted.

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Before this season, Twitter stated it had eliminated 23,750 accounts dispersing geopolitical narratives favourable to the Chinese Communist Party, and the other 150,000 accounts made to amplify these messages.

A Twitter spokeswoman said the company remains watchful, however, the Cyabra findings “don’t hold up to scrutiny” because it relied only on publicly available data.

A Cyabra spokeswoman said its creators are information warfare specialists with Israeli military wallpapers, and the US State Department was one of its clientele.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed the ‘China tweet that enraged Australia propelled by ‘unusual’ accounts‘ article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Kirsty Needham. Additional reporting by Gabriel Crossley in Beijing. Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and William Mallard.

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