In an 89-page complaint unsealed on Monday, the Justice Department alleges 34 current and former members of China’s 912 Special Project Working Group carried out a multi-year campaign to harass critics of Xi Jinping’s regime and discredit American policies. The task force, part of China’s domestic security agency, created thousands of fake social media profiles, including on Twitter and Facebook, to target Chinese dissidents in the US.
Judging from screenshots shared by the Justice Department, many of the profiles did not have more than a dozen accounts following them, but a common thread among them is that they tried to pass as authentic American voices. US The Wall StreetJournal points out, one account claimed to be “Susan Miller,” a woman from New York. Another said they were “Julie Torres,” a native of Wisconsin. According to the Justice Department, China’s Ministry of Public Security tracked the performance of the agents involved in the operation and rewarded those who successfully ran multiple online persons without being detected by Twitter and Facebook.
In addition to targeting Chinese dissidents, the group took a page from Russia’s disinformation playbook, sought to discredit the US government by exploiting divisions among the American public. For example, it spread disinformation about George Floyd, the Black Man whose murder by Minneapolis police in 2020 sparked Black Lives Matter protests across the country. The group also amplified Russian propaganda about the war in Ukraine.
“As alleged, the PRC government deploys its national police and the 912 Special Project Working Group not as an instrument to uphold the law and protect public safety, but rather as a troll farm that attacks persons in our country for exercising free speech in a manner that the PRC government finds disagreeable, and also spreads propaganda whose sole purpose is to sow