Chinese Communist Party (CCP) state media accounts criticized Republicans and defended Democrats on TikTok leading up to the 2022 midterm elections. That would seem to indicate foreign interference in U.S. elections—and it’s been happening on social media since at least 2020.
Congress held hearings to investigate comparatively minor Russian influence on elections, but there’s another U.S. enemy that also tried to sway American voters: China. That’s according to a report released Thursday by Forbes and Hot Air.
CCP state propaganda accounts managed by registered foreign agent MediaLinks TV of China Central Television, according to the account bios, “criticized some candidates (mostly Republicans), and favored others (mostly Democrats),” Forbes said. The publication called out @NewsTokss for bias, adding that @Pandaorama and @The…Optimist also attempt to influence Americans politically. These accounts garner millions of views.
Chinese state media has produced constant propaganda on social media for years. In fact, MRC Free Speech America found 106 Chinese state-affiliated accounts across Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube with a total of 867 million followers in October.
Hot Air linked to some of the CCP accounts’ political videos targeting U.S. politicians, including White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre accusing former President Donald Trump of being “anti-Semitic” and President Joe Biden calling Republicans “hypocritical.” CCP accounts’ videos also attacked Republicans Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), Senate candidate Herschel Walker (GA), and former Senate candidate Mehmet Oz (PA).
Forbes claimed, “‘this is the first report of a Chinese state media entity using TikTok to influence U.S. audiences’ opinions about U.S. politics.’” But it’s certainly not the first time Chinese state media has targeted Republicans over Democrats on American social media before an election.
CCP state media Global Times has endorsed violence against other countries multiple times on Twitter. But MRC Free Speech America can reveal the publication also repeatedly attacked then-President Donald Trump at least 22 different times going into the 2020 presidential election on Twitter. It tweeted a potentially negative statement about Joe Biden only once, according to MRC Free Speech America’s findings (the account did attack Biden a few times before 2022). One tweet in August said, “‘If Trump believes China is helping Biden, he can simply not provoke China and show less hostility,’ a Chinese expert said. China’s interference in 2020 election a good excuse for @realDonaldTrump’s failure as president.”
Several attack tweets mentioned TikTok, including, “Trump dislikes TikTok, and he has reason to worry that the American teenagers will use the app to make trouble for him again at a crucial moment in the election: Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin.” Global Times also accused Trump of being racist and predicted a Trump loss if he didn’t take a more favorable China stance. Global Times continued to slam Trump after the election, too, as it criticized Trump supporters on Jan. 6
While Global Times critiqued Biden a number of times in 2022, it also admitted, “One year ago, when @JoeBiden became the new US president, many Americans, US allies and even China and Russia, hoped his administration could fix the problems left by Donald #Trump. But now, most of them found Biden’s performance disappointing.” A 2020 tweet expressed hope for a pro-China Biden administration.
WIRED also claimed that an online pro-CCP group “Dragonbridge” also tries to spread U.S.-tailored election propaganda online. Hot Air speculated that there wouldn’t be much coverage of the recent Chinese election influence, because it seems tilted in favor of Democrats.
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