A report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) sheds new light and more details on covert Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cyber-enabled influence operations, titled Gaming Public Opinion. The report covers the scope of the CCP’s growing and sophisticated online influence operations and the spreading of disinformation on Western social-media platforms. ASPI conducted specialised data collection spanning Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Sina Weibo, and ByteDance products while researching for the report.
The report says these “operations are now more frequent, increasingly sophisticated, and increasingly effective in supporting the CCP’s strategic goals. They focus on disrupting the domestic, foreign, security, and defence policies of foreign countries, and most of all they target democracies.”
The report also states “CCP cyber-enabled influence operations are probably conducted, in parallel if not collectively, by multiple Chinese party-state agencies. Those agencies appear at times to collaborate with private Chinese companies. The most notable actors that are likely to be conducting such operations include the People’s Liberation Army’s Strategic Support Force (PLASSF), which conducts cyber operations as part of the PLA’s political warfare; the Ministry of State Security (MSS), which conducts covert operations for state security; the Central Propaganda Department, which oversees China’s domestic and foreign propaganda efforts; the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), which enforces China’s internet laws; and the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), which regulates China’s internet ecosystem. Chinese state media outlets and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) officials are also running clandestine operations that seek to amplify their own overt propaganda and influence activities.”
The report outlines several policy recommendations for governments and social media platforms including:
“Governments should change their language in speeches and policy documents to describe social-media platforms as critical infrastructure. This would acknowledge the existing importance of those platforms in democracies and would communicate signals to malicious actors that, like cyber operations on the power grid, efforts to interfere in the information ecosystem will be met with proportionate responses.”
“Partners and allies should strengthen intelligence diplomacy on this emerging security challenge and seek to share more intelligence with one another on such influence operations. Strong open-source intelligence skills and collection capabilities are a crucial part of investigating and attributing these operations, the low classification of which, should making intelligence sharing easier.”