Over 120 Chinese Websites Act as Local News Organizations

A report from Canadian watchdog group Citizen Lab found that at least 123 Chinese websites pose as local news organizations across 30 countries.

These websites spread “pro-Beijing disinformation and ad hominem attacks within much larger volumes of commercial press releases,” the report explains.

“While the campaign’s websites enjoyed negligible exposure to date, there is a heightened risk of inadvertent amplification by the local media and target audiences, as a result of the quick multiplication of these websites and their adaptiveness to local languages and content,” Alberto Fittarelli, the author of the report, wrote.

The campaign, which Fittarelli called “Paperwall,” is a “large, and fast growing, network of anonymous websites posing as local news outlets.”

Many of the Chinese websites use local spellings, such as “Roma” or “Milano,” paired with what the report describes as “mundane terminology,” such as “fashion,” “money,” or “journal.”

The watchdog group believes the Paperwall campaign can be attributed to a Chinese firm called “Haimai” based on “digital infrastructure linkages between Haimai and PAPERWALL.”

“This is therefore an incriminating finding, proving that both PAPERWALL domains had been set up by the same operators as the Haimai assets,” the report asserted.

“Seeding pieces of disinformation and targeted attacks within much larger quantities of irrelevant or even unpopular content is a known modus operandi in the context of influence operations,” Fittarelli warned, “which can eventually pay enormous dividends once one of those fragments is eventually picked up and legitimized by mainstream press or political figures.”

American Faith reported that the Chinese military has been studying “cyber-enabled influence operations” (IO) against the United States.

By adopting “cognitive domain operations,” the Chinese military is focused on a “psychological or cognitive decision to surrender, as compared with the 20th century construct of total warfare and complete physical exhaustion of adversary military capabilities and resources,” according to Beauchamp-Mustafaga.

The CCP has used “synthetic information,” which was described as the production of “inauthentic content based on some amount of original information,” as well as social media algorithms, to enable “precision cognitive attacks.”