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China, the propaganda super-abuser of global social media

(TibetanReview.net, Dec17’21) – Foreign social media influencers living in China are the new ambassadors of the outwardly smiling but internally brutal party-state’s propaganda machinery. They may deny it, but government documents and the creators themselves show or admit that state-run news outlets and local governments have organized and funded these pro-Beijing influencers’ travel, reported the nyt.com Dec 14.

State-run news outlets and local governments have paid or offered to pay the creators. And they have generated lucrative traffic for the influencers by sharing videos with millions of followers on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, the report said.

With official media outlets’ backing, the creators can visit and film in parts of China where the authorities have obstructed foreign journalists’ reporting, the report noted.

And even if the creators do not see themselves as propaganda tools, Beijing uses them that way. Chinese diplomats and representatives have shown their videos at news conferences and promoted them on social media. Together, six of the most popular of these influencers have garnered more than 130 million views on YouTube and more than 1.1 million subscribers, the report noted.

Beijing is thereby using platforms like Twitter and YouTube, which are blocked inside China, to prevent the uncontrolled spread of information, as propaganda megaphones for the wider world.

“China is the new super-abuser that has arrived in global social media,” Eric Liu, a former content moderator for Chinese social media, has said. “The goal is not to win, but to cause chaos and suspicion until there is no real truth.”

Raz Gal-Or, an Israeli youth who studies in Beijing, brings his millions of subscribers along as he interviews both ordinary people and fellow expatriates about their lives in China. And in a video this spring, he visits cotton fields in Xinjiang to counter allegations of forced labour in the region.

“It’s totally normal here,” the report quoted him as declaring after enjoying kebabs with some workers. “People are nice, doing their job, living their life.”

But, the report pointed out, his videos did not mention the internal government documents, firsthand testimonials and visits by journalists that indicated that the Chinese authorities had held hundreds of thousands of Xinjiang’s Muslims in re-education camps. They also did not mention his and his family’s business ties to the Chinese state.

Sympathetic foreign voices are part of Beijing’s increasingly ambitious efforts to shape the world conversation about China, the report noted.

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