Fake Twitter accounts impersonate Chinese media journalists overseas

Likely by non-Chinese, linked actor(s)

This newsletter is a deviation from the traditional content of Pekingnology. Usual disclaimers apply.

I’m identifying four Twitter accounts that purport to represent Chinese media journalists but actually do not.

Three of them, with apparently real profile photos, purport to be based in Brussels, Belgium.

A

B

C

Another one, without a profile photo, purports to be based in New Delhi, India.

D

I have been in direct contact with the three Chinese media journalists that A, B, and D purport to represent. All denied they are behind the accounts.

I have not been able to establish direct contact with the Chinese media journalist that C purports to represent. But an intermediary told me it’s highly unlikely that *this* Chinese media journalist would run a Twitter account and post frequently.

The problems I have identified with these four accounts include

Problem 1

Their use of Mandarin is inconsistent with people who grow up speaking Mandarin.

These are A’s first two tweets. People who grow up speaking Mandarin don’t use “想要谈,” even if it’s a translation from “speaking about.”

“大流行” is the translation of “pandemic,” which you always get using translation software. But for whatever reasons, the Mandarin-speaking world does not use “大流行.” Especially in the Chinese mainland, people use 疫情.

Also, the wording in the Mandarin # hashtags is unusual. The Chinese mainland does not use “冠状病毒” standalone to describe COVID, much less “新冠状病毒.”

These two tweets from B also have a Mandarin problem - “使用推特对我带来新的挑战和一个能够与西方媒体连接的有效平台” and “操作推特的功能” - the use of the language is not consistent with native speakers.

Native speakers don’t use “破坏稳定行动” in this context, or probably anywhere else.

These two tweets from C translates “follow” as “跟随,” which is what a dictionary or translation software will do. But native Mandarin speakers won’t do that. They will translate “follow” to “关注.”

This tweet from D “西方国家毫无根据地批评中国宁愿跟它学习” does not make sense in Mandarin.

All of the language problems are not results of typos.

In summary, all four fake accounts have Mandarin problems, suggesting the person or people behind them are not native speakers.

Problem 2

They use way too many # hashtags. People from the Chinese mainland don’t. Other non-Chinese authentic Twitter accounts don’t as well.

Each of these four Twitter accounts routinely uses a usual number of # hashtags in almost every tweet. If you are on Twitter and follow people from the Chinese mainland, you would be probably aware that they don’t do that. In fact, in my observation, non-Chinese Twitter users don’t do that either.

According to Wikipedia,

a hashtag is a metadata tag that is prefaced by the hash symbol, #. Hashtags are widely used on microblogging and photo-sharing services such as Twitter and Instagram as a form of user-generated tagging that enables cross-referencing of content sharing a subject or theme.

Problem 3

They are linked.

i) They are linked by mutual followings.

D is followed by A and B

C is followed by B

B is followed by C and D

A is followed by D

ii) They “like” each others’ tweets.

A likes B

B likes A

A likes D

iii) B jumped to A’s defense.

Chen Weihua, the EU bureau chief of China Daily, first publicly identified A as a fake account on April 7.

After that, I wrote a thread on April 10, confirming Chen’s finding

and hinting there are other fake accounts beyond A. At the time, I already knew B was fake so I was putting out a bait - trying to explore how B would respond to the tweet, despite I never said publicly B was another fake.

B took the bait and attacked me and Chen, defending A whose cover had been blown.

iv) A and B took a drastic turn in their tweets around the time Chen publicly identified (ONLY) A on April 7.

They largely posted what can be described as pro-Beijing tweets before that.

After July 7, when Chen’s expose of (ONLY) A

The tweets of D, which so far maintained its cover in public, also took a turn, but on a lesser observable scale.

C, which so far also maintained its cover in public, hasn’t tweeted after April 7 - its last tweet was on April 2.

***

One thing quite amusing to me is that, on March 19, B actually wrote a Twitter thread to reveal another account, @jingdongwbg, was faking @jingdonghua, which has a bluecheck.

A retweeted B’s reveal

And A “likes” some tweets in this thread.

D “likes” every tweet in this thread.

***

To clarify, some of the Chinese media journalists the fake accounts purport to represent remain(s) overseas, but some of them have(has) returned to China. I’m not identifying their current location, for reasons including privacy and not feeding the impersonators.

Prior to Chen’s tweet on April 7, I had determined A, B, and C are fake accounts but decided against exposing them immediately. I wanted to find out what they were up to. In Direct Messages (DM) on Twitter, I had initiated and engaged in brief conversations with A and B to explore what they were up to.

I am now exposing them because:

1) Chen has already publicly exposed A;

2) B, who was not exposed at the time, took my bait, revealed his support of A, and effectively blown his own cover (at least to me);

3) my patience has run out.

I only found out about D two days ago, first through its “likes” of B’s thread.

I have many questions about the fake accounts, and I’m almost sure you do as well. So I’ll leave them to you. (End)