Research Finds No Evidence of China Interference Campaign on #AusPol Twitter

New research has found no evidence of a major China-backed campaign to influence Australian political discourse on social media, according to the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology.

The research analysed more than 69,000 tweets from two low-points in Australia-China relations in 2020 and found no evidence the CCP was using bots to shape political conversation on the social media site.

Conducted in collaboration with Queensland University of Technology’s Digital Media Research Centre, the research examined two tense diplomatic moments: the Australian Government’s call for an independent inquiry into origins of COVID-19, and Chinese Government spokesman Zhao Lijian’s tweet of an image depicting an Australian soldier killing an Afghan child.

“If there was a serious campaign by the Chinese Government to influence Australian social media users, then these events would have been likely targets,” said Rod Campbell, Research Director of the Centre for Responsible Technology.

“Extensive analysis was conducted, looking for automated or coordinated activity and manually reading tweets and account profiles. While there are certainly pro-China accounts that exhibit some suspicious activity, the relatively small number of them makes it seem unlikely that they are backed by the Chinese Government.

“This contrasts with other studies that purport to show major Chinese influence on Twitter. We find no evidence of this.

“This is not to downplay the potential for malign Chinese Government influence in Australia and online.

“But commentary that overstates the extent of Chinese Government interference is counterproductive for national security and healthy online discussion.”

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