China is expanding its expansive surveillance network beyond its borders like never before, harvesting social media data from Western Targets, according to information revealed in a report from the Washington Post which reviewed several hundred Chinese bidding contracts, company filings, and documents.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is mining social media accounts from Western Nations, using data gathered from sites such as Twitter and Facebook for the ultimate goal of “equip[ping] its government agencies… military and police with information on foreign targets.”
The Post’s report explains that the Chinese government maintains a nationwide network of data surveillance services known as “public opinion analysis software” that has been used throughout the past decade to warn party officials of potentially “politically sensitive information online.” The software, according to the report, has primarily been used for tracking internet traffic and use domestically in China, but now the Communist government is extending its tendrils out into the Western hemisphere to expand their influence.
Some of the uncovered information details a $320,000 software program run by the Chinese State Media that collects information on Western journalists and academics using information gathered from Twitter and Facebook. Another program, with a contract value of $216,000, gives Beijing police total ability to monitor Western chatter that goes to Taiwan or Hong Kong, as well as a monitoring station in Xinjiang, where China’s Uyghur population is most dense. The software catalogues the Muslim group’s language content in foreign lands.
The monumental surveillance machine is part of the CCP’s mission to “refine its foreign propaganda… through big data and artificial intelligence.” The software and hardware empire functions as “a network of warning systems” that provide “real-time alarms for trends that undermine Beijing’s interests,” according to the report.
Senior fellow from the German Marshall Fund, Mareike Ohlberg, who has extensively researched the CCP’s domestic public opinion network, says that the state is attempting to “reorient” their surveillance state “outward.” She added that the recent developments discovered by The Post are “frankly terrifying” and noted that it shows China’s willingness to “fight the public opinion war overseas.”
Author: Jack Foster