China is leveraging its massive surveillance network to harvest the social media data of Western targets, according to a Washington Post review of “hundreds of Chinese bidding documents, contracts and company filings.”
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is mining Western social media — such as Facebook and Twitter — to “equip its government agencies, military and police with information on foreign targets.”
“China maintains a countrywide network of government data surveillance services — called public opinion analysis software — that were developed over the past decade and are used domestically to warn officials of politically sensitive information online,” The Washington Post explained. “The software primarily targets China’s domestic Internet users and media, but a Post review of bidding documents and contracts for over 300 Chinese government projects since the beginning of 2020 include orders for software designed to collect data on foreign targets from sources such as Twitter, Facebook and other Western social media.”
These documents also indicate that “agencies including state media, propaganda departments, police, military and cyber regulators are purchasing new or more sophisticated systems to gather data.”
“These include a $320,000 Chinese state media software program that mines Twitter and Facebook to create a database of foreign journalists and academics; a $216,000 Beijing police intelligence program that analyzes Western chatter on Hong Kong and Taiwan; and a cybercenter in Xinjiang, home to most of China’s Uyghur population, that catalogues the mainly Muslim minority group’s language content abroad,” The Washington Post added.
One Chinese analyst said that this system allows them to “better understand the underground network of anti-China personnel.” One such project they were tasked with involved “producing a data report on how negative content relating to Beijing’s senior leadership is spread on Twitter, including profiles of individual academics, politicians and journalists.”
This monumental surveillance effort is part of China’s mission to “refine its foreign propaganda efforts through big data and artificial intelligence,” The Post noted, as part of “a network of warning systems designed to sound real-time alarms for trends that undermine Beijing’s interests.”
Mareike Ohlberg has researched China’s domestic public opinion network as a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, and said that China is now “reorienting part of that effort outward.”
Ohlberg described the move as “frankly terrifying,” and that it “really shows that they now feel it’s their responsibility to defend China overseas and fight the public opinion war overseas.”
This news provides further insight into China’s widespread technological objectives. In a bombshell report in May 2021, for example, the Chinese Communist government was accused of testing an artificial intelligence (AI) emotion-detection camera system on Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
A software engineer who claimed to have installed this facial and emotion detection system in police stations in the province home to 12 million ethnic minority Uyghurs said, “The Chinese government use Uyghurs as test subjects for various experiments just like rats are used in laboratories.”
“We placed the emotion detection camera 3m from the subject. It is similar to a lie detector but far more advanced technology,” the anonymous engineer explained, describing the use of the systems in police stations in Xinjiang. He then went on to describe the “restraint chairs” installed in police stations throughout China.
“Your wrists are locked in place by metal restraints, and [the] same applies to your ankles.”
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.