back to article China unleashes fearsome new cyber-weapon: A very provocative meme

China has unleashed a fearsome new cyber-weapon: a meme so dank - it depicts a knife-wielding soldier threatening to kill a child - that it has sparked a diplomatic incident. The meme was tweeted last week by a Chinese foreign ministry official and aimed at Australia. Sino-Australian relations have deteriorated in recent …

  1. 759b954e-617b-408b-a2b1-f5a42c3688d4
    Coffee/keyboard

    You couldnt make it up

    Nation that suppresses free speech defends its behaviour using argument of free speech.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: You couldnt make it up

      Unless you had some knowledge of politics or history anywhere in the world.

  2. The Aussie Paradox
    Black Helicopters

    It gets better

    The latest round of tit-for-tat involves China blocking ScoMo's WeChat (whatever that is) response because $reasons.

    https://www.sbs.com.au/news/social-media-platform-wechat-blocks-scott-morrison-s-message-to-chinese-citizens

    My coat is the one with the bottle of Aussie wine in the pocket.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: China blocking ScoMo's WeChat

      Oh, like it says in the article.

      Thanks for that.

  3. Diogenes

    And of course Twatter wont take it down

    1. llaryllama

      I find it very frustrating that Twitter is somehow able to immediately label anything negative about Hunter Biden or the US elections as fake news but an autocratic dictatorship can post an incendiary and violent Photoshopped image with zero consequences.

      My friends get confused and even aggressive when I talk about this because they assume this means I'm pro Trump or whatever, but this kind of attitude is exactly what's wrong with free speech in 2020.

      Free speech means allowing and accepting viewpoints that you don't agree with. I was taught this from a young age and I try to balance my news reading between left, right, local and international. If your platform is a free for all where anyone can post anything then so be it. If your platform is moderated then moderate equally, tag anything remotely controversial or unproven as fake news.

      Where we are headed now is really not that much better than China or Russia, except instead of the central government controlling information flows it's massive tech companies and their backers.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Twitter probably needs to hire more censors. Trump's been keeping them pretty busy of late.

        Icon.. the censors at Twitter.

      2. sabroni Silver badge

        re: I find it very frustrating that Twitter is somehow able to immediately label anything negative

        That's because WeChat isn't Twitter.

        Don't let a complete lack of knowledge of the situation stop you posting a rambling conspiracy filled message though.

        Wonder where you got the idea....

        I WON THIS DEBATE!!! BY A LOT!!!!!!!!!

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: re: <title is too long>

          "That's because WeChat isn't Twitter."

          So what? The OP is talking about how Twitter still hasn't taken down the original fake image.

          1. genghis_uk Silver badge

            Re: re: <title is too long>

            And if Twitter did remove it, there would be a whole lot of people complaining about censorship* and removal of memes...

            They are not in a position to win this one - maybe Aus could do a Winnie the Pooh meme in retaliation? Then, when Twitter leave that up too, another batch of people can complain

            *Twitter is a private company - removal of posts is MODERATION not censorship. They are do not prevent any removed posts being posted somewhere else. Censorship is something completely different

            1. DavCrav Silver badge

              Re: re: <title is too long>

              This is not a meme. This is a staged photograph of a soldier with a knife to a baby, with a comment along the lines of 'how dare Aussies knife babies'. It's just lies and defamatory, nothing more.

              That's not a humorous picture pointing out how Xi looks like a fat cartoon bear. Which is a fact.

              1. genghis_uk Silver badge

                Re: re: <title is too long>

                I didn't say I agree with it (I really don't!) but does the image go against Twitter rules?

                If it does then they should remove it right away, if not then it should stay up - the point of free speech is that some people post stuff you don't like but they are free to say it - even lies (the last 4 years have shown that) and potentially offensive posts. Defamation needs to be proven in court but could be a reason for a take down.

                There is a lot of offensive stuff out there but if it is not illegal and not against the community rules then the court of public opinion should not make it disappear. You end up with moral police that way.

                I will probably get roasted for this but, while I agree it is offensive, I cannot agree that outrage (moral or otherwise) ought to be the deciding factor. Just my opinion and you are free to disagree - because that is how it works

              2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

                Re: re: <title is too long>

                No, it's effectively a photo-realistic cartoon. The photograph was never intended to be taken as being a real situation, but was intended as parody or satire. Like the Charlie Hebo cartoons. The accusation it makes is indeed very defamatory toward Australia, but the defamation is well-deserved, and is based on truth not lies.

                Australia is upset because the meme struck a recently exposed (and very rotten) nerve. The truth hurts.

                1. llaryllama

                  Re: re: <title is too long>

                  Nothing about the post suggests that it was a "parody", "joke" or "cartoon". Suggesting that it's a "photo realistic cartoon" is highly disingenuous.

                  If somebody from the US government posted a "photo realistic cartoon" of a PLA soldier shooting ethnic minorities against the wall with no further explanation, would this be OK?

                  Like I wrote above I deplore censorship of any kind and I don't agree that this image should be blocked. If anything it just puts the PRC government in a bad light.

                  The problem I have is that less incendiary posts by conservative/republican politicians/pundits are flagged as fake news or sensitive. Does that mean that Twitter has given the image in question a green light? And what right do they as a social media platform to decide that?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Isn't because the Hunter Biden posts were actually fake news, since they were never substantiated, while the Chinese post, however crappy and incendiary, is based on actual reports?

        1. LovesTha

          Except the act depicted is one that there is a single unreliable report of. They didn't choose to depict one of the numerous and quite heinous acts that has been confirmed to actually occur.

      4. martinusher Silver badge

        "Free speech" is vastly misunderstood. In the US it comes from the Bill of Rights and it refers to the government not making laws restricting the free expression of speech, publication or religion. We also have very tolerant libel laws (which is why people prefer to sue for libel in the UK). Other countries have different laws -- "YMMV".

        What is a bit difficutl to swallow is manufacturered outrage. We come out will all sorts of crap because its "free speech", a lot of it being barely disguised propaganda, and yet when some of it gets redirected at us our reaction is "outrage". How dare they! They 'dare' because they're in another jurisdiction.

        I'd like to remind everyone that currently in the US people are being pilloried, getting death threats and so on just for saying something that Trump of his supporters don't like to hear. This is another example of people going on about 'free speech' when they're out smearing others, spreading conspiracy theories or whatever but when the tables are turned -- even if its just a mild statement of fact like "We don't see any fraud" the reaction is incendiary.

        1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

          In case you're only listening to one side, Trump supporters have been getting death threats since the summer of 2016. And actual riots, with lootings, burnings, and the like are being conducted by the anti-Trump agents.

    2. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge
      Trollface

      yes, advertisement for alcoholic beverages is heavily regulated and should be accompanied with proper warning that it is unhealthy...

  4. jake Silver badge

    ::opens 2016 Redgate Sauvignon Blanc::

    Fuck you, China.

    Cheers, Australia. Nice plonk. Recommended :-)

    1. Schultz Silver badge

      Re: ::opens 2016 Redgate Sauvignon Blanc::

      For once I can agree with you, jake. Cheers to / with some decent Australian wine!

  5. sbt
    Meh

    Hypocrisy with Chinese Characteristics

    Really, the Australian Government should have ignored this obvious trolling. The CCP's long history of double standards when it comes to human rights, foreign investment and even racism is no longer newsworthy. No regime with that much censorship can argue its legitimacy with a straight face; if the CCP and Winnie are so fantastic, they should able to stand a little dissent. Hong Kongers would be enthusiastic about closer ties to Beijing. It speaks volumes that any time the question of real freedom arises from Tianamen onwards, they're found wanting.

    I'm just sorry for the distress this 'art' and the related international media coverage may have caused to the Afghan people and the families and the victims of the war crimes in the report.

    1. llaryllama

      Re: Hypocrisy with Chinese Characteristics

      If China was just a moderately well behaved country it's possible that Taiwanese - being a pragmatic bunch - might vote for some kind of unification.

      It's almost gone that way a few times in the last 30 years, but thankfully for me as a staunch independence advocate China can't help shooting itself in the foot. When the pro-Beijing nationalist KMT party were still in power things started to get very cozy. China tried to seal the deal by showing off some military hardware and hassling Taiwan's air defenses with the rather predictable results - even moderate and China-leaning Taiwanese were repulsed by these threats and our democratic opposition destroyed the KMT in elections.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hypocrisy with Chinese Characteristics

      "I'm just sorry for the distress this 'art' and the related international media coverage may have caused to the Afghan people and the families and the victims of the war crimes in the report."

      Because they were so much more comfortable and happy before, when there was zero international coverage of the Australian war crimes?

      1. sbt
        Thumb Down

        Re: Hypocrisy with Chinese Characteristics

        No, because this 'art' made light of the plight of the victims in order to score political points. There has already been international coverage of this scandal, as there should be; it is most definitely newsworthy and we shouldn't be sweeping it under any rugs. That's not an excuse for the trolling.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hypocrisy with Chinese Characteristics

          The advantage of this meme operation is to put the issue back on the front pages (hopefully), instead of having the issue already ignored.

          Looking at Google News, searching for Australia, I found only one mention of the initial issue, and it is just to say that these war crimes never occurred according to Australian MP.

          And searching for Afghanistan I just found a new scandal, this time a picture of an Australian soldier drinking from a prosthetic leg...

          1. sbt

            Your Google-fu is terrible

            Come on, the top completion suggestion in Google for "Australia Afghanistan" is "war crimes" then "war crimes report". Google News has 1.7m results for that string. You're not going to get any meaningful news results just searching for one country name; there's too much going on.

            1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

              Re: Your Google-fu is terrible

              The AC is a CCP/PLA sock puppet. Don't treat the post as if it were serious.

  6. chrisw67

    As a former serving member I can only agree with the comments of Angus Cambell, our Chief of Defence Force, "Moral authority is an element of combat power. If we do not hold ourselves, on the battlefield, at least to standards we expect of our adversaries, we deprive ourselves of that moral authority, and that element of combat power. We are all diminished by it." Holding oneself to better the standards of the Taliban is a low bar... and we failed. What is alleged to have happened is rightly causing some soul searching in Australia. We will continue to prosecute those we can and do so openly.

    Afghanistan's leadership commented on the revelations of the report in a diplomatic and constructive fashion, and they represent the justifiably agrieved parties.

    China did not need to comment. That it chose to, through an semi-official open channel, and in such a deliberately confrontational way betrays its intent. Had the artist published this himself, which of course he cannot without CCP approval, then I might have accepted it. This is not the free speech of an individual, worthy of defence, but a cynical remark deliberately intended to exert politcal leverage. The hypocrisy of a "Free-speech" defence from a regime that will not accept any criticism of its own position in respect of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinxiang, Tibet, Spratly Is., or its program of political influence in foreign lands is outstanding.

    My vote for Xi "Winnie" Jinping for dick of the year is in. Stolen from Mr. Trump at the last hurdle.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      My vote for Xi "Winnie" Jinping for dick of the year is in. Stolen from Mr. Trump at the last hurdle.

      So it can't be awarded jointly with both sharing it? Or is the election rigged? LOL.

      1. chrisw67
        FAIL

        There's certainly enough Fail to share, but neither of these gentlemen likes to share.

        1. LovesTha

          So your saying that awarding it to both of them will make them both unhappy on multiple levels?

          I don't see the problem.

    2. N2 Silver badge
      Pint

      My vote for Xi "Winnie" Jinping for dick of the year is in

      Made me smile,

      A well deserved pint cos its poets day...

  7. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
    Happy

    A well written account of what's going on

    I wish Australia's newspapers were more like this...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A well written account of what's going on

      I suppose we should wish that Hong Kong's newspapers were as well written as this story too.

      Speaking of Hong Kong newspapers, the BBC is reporting that Jimmy Lai, described by them as a media tycoon, and founder of the company which publishes newspaper "The Apple Daily", has been arrested on fraud charges. He has been denied bail.

      Perhaps he didn't make enough memes supporting Beijing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A well written account of what's going on

        No he was arrested because of the name of the paper.

        Apple brand is reserved worldwide for Apple Inc.

        1. Getmo

          Re: A well written account of what's going on

          Oh, hi China.

      2. llaryllama

        Re: A well written account of what's going on

        The "fraud" is that they were using part of a building for reasons not described on the lease. There is very little other information forthcoming, I assume because the case is so ridiculous and tenuous.

        In other words, Lai has done nothing wrong so let's scour the records for the pettiest of technicalities to throw him in jail cause that'll learn 'im.

  8. Potemkine! Silver badge

    IMNSHO, Australian politicos' answer is not the good one. It only gives more weight to China's trolling, and everybody should know it: never feed the troll.

    Summon Chinese ambassador to scold would have been the good diplomatic option.

    Everybody not brainwashed with Xi's propaganda knows that China has no lesson to give: Xinjiang "re-education" camps, Laogai, systematic crackdown on dissent is China's reality.

    China is becoming more and more aggressive. Democracies have to stand with Australia.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My apologies, I consider that two wrongs don't make a right, and I do not see why I would *have* to stand with Australian war crimes just to show that I'm opposed to Chinese repression.

      1. Potemkine! Silver badge

        You make the confusion between a whole nation and the rogue actions of some of its soldiers.

        Because Australia dealt openly with those actions, it cannot be considered accomplice of those killings.

        Something that cannot be said for example for China regarding the Tiananmen Square Massacre for instance.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Are you sure?

          "Military, academic and mental health experts appeared on Australian TV screens to buffer the allegations by speaking of the integrity of the military and concerns over the impact on the image and morale of the defence forces. Australian officials and commentators tried to present the war crimes as an act of a few “bad apples” just as their American counterparts did with the uncovered torture and murder at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

          Even when the horror of the war crimes was on full display and the sheer scale of the war crimes and depraved practices undeniable, white innocence was still desperately gasping for redemption.

          But what struck me the most as an Afghan living in Australia watching this fiasco unravel was how the coverage of the inquiry on Australian TV ended with the promotion of a mental health helpline for members of the military and their families. This, in a year of protests against uniformed men terrorising civilian populations and basking in impunity taking place around the world."

          https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2020/12/3/australian-war-crimes-and-racist-fantasies-in-afghanistan/

          1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

            Tell Pooh Bear I said "hi!"

          2. LovesTha

            It would have been a waste to advertise services for Afgan's, the program is not broadcast in Afghanistan.

            And it is reasonable for honourable defence force members and ex-members to have PSTD or other mental health issues triggered by the content of the revelations.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Uncomfortable parallels

          As the article notes "Australia reveres its military, and the allegations are considered a stain on the nation’s history and reputation." Australia will have to accept that its military is capable of crimes which affect its reputation, just as other countries have. Somebody better qualified than me can offer examples of the British armed forces in Northern Ireland, for example.

          Another parallel is with the "Somalia Affair" (the title of the wikipedia page which discusses it), regarding the actions of members of the Canadian Airborne Regiment on peacekeeping operations in Somalia in 1993. Wikipedia states: "The affair led to the disbanding of Canada's elite Canadian Airborne Regiment, greatly damaging the morale of the Canadian Forces, and marring the domestic and international reputation of Canadian soldiers." No mention is made of the damage done to the international reputation of Canada as a country. The page does note that Canadian military spending dropped by 25% however - an oddly out-of-place fact.

          The longest sentence served was 1 year before release on parole (out of a five-year sentence).

          I condemn those responsible for this, just as I condemn those responsible for the Tiananmen Square Massacre. As another commentator stated above, it is possible to do both.

        3. Claptrap314 Silver badge

          Don't engage the CCP/PLA sock puppet seriously. This is a propaganda troll at best.

        4. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          It aint no solution, a dirty war crime .....

          ...... whenever left as an open rancid sore infecting all initially involved and subsequently effected in treating it badly

          You make the confusion between a whole nation and the rogue actions of some of its soldiers.

          Because Australia dealt openly with those actions, it cannot be considered accomplice of those killings.

          Something that cannot be said for example for China regarding the Tiananmen Square Massacre for instance. ..... Potemkine!

          Such an argument then renders a whole nation disgraced by the rogue actions of some of its agents who are known to be accomplices in killings where deadly actions are not openly dealt with and just stuffed into another can and kicked further on down a dark and murky road ....... https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/nov/30/ministers-reject-call-for-public-inquiry-into-pat-finucane

          So what can be said for example of the UKGBNI regarding that instance/blot on the landscape/indelible stain, Potemkine!?

  9. bin

    China has one goal

    and that is total world domination - economic first, then social/military.

    Countries that grovel to trade with that evil dictatorship should instead be working together to lock it out and be done.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: China has one goal

      This ^^^^^

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: China has one goal

      @bin

      So you will not be buying anything made in China in the future?

      Cheers.. Ishy

      1. Mark Exclamation

        Re: China has one goal

        @Ishy

        Your sarcasm precedes you.

        However, that is EXACTLY what my goal is. It's not easy, and won't be easy for a long time, but I can sense that it is going to become easier as China takes on the rest of the world (except Russia, initially, but even they will realise they are being conned at some stage).

        Yes, I will be striving to not buy anything made in China in the future.

  10. Terry 6 Silver badge

    It's not just a "meme"

    The "meme" part is just a vehicle. The use of a faked atrocity image is the actual point.

    It's a kind of nasty dark propaganda, and of course whataboutism which enables China to divert attention from Hong Kong, genocide of Uighurs etc.etc etc.

  11. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Probably escalate in a twit for twat war where each side make danker memes about the other...

  12. lglethal Silver badge

    Better response

    The perfect response would have been to point out that Australia has investigated the allegations of war crimes openly and will be prosecuting the soldiers (again openly) for their horrific actions. And then ask the Question, how many people were put on trial for the crimes against humanity committed during the Tiananmen Square Massacre?

    Let the Chinese media and people read that response! But the Chinese Media wouldnt be able to report it, and any Chinese people looking to see what the reponse was would suddenly get an education that is blocked within China.

    Win-Win. Well, probably not, since no one wins an argument on the internet...

  13. lglethal Silver badge
    Holmes

    Thought experiement

    It would be interesting to see what would have happened if Australia just decided to pull the plug and go, you know what stuff it. No more trade with China! And instantly pull the plug on all exports to China. It would do a lot of really strong harm to the Mining industry no doubt, and probably to the Agriculture industry as well, but it would absolutely cripple some Chinese industries in response.

    And the thing with Mining and Agriculture is that they would rebound pretty quick, other markets would pick up the slack (especially in agriculture), but the next level industry that relies on that stuff, tends to break down pretty fast without supply and sourcing new stocks at the levels Australia deals with China would be hard to source at competitive prices. Not to mention all their power plants that are reliant on Australian Coal...

    It could have been a very interesting scenario. Still in this day and age, no one seems to be quite willing to play that sort of game. But a mislaid report suggesting it as a nuclear option, that just happened to be picked up by Chinese agents, well, it could have had an effect...

    1. Mark Exclamation

      Re: Thought experiement

      I have been thinking the same. I'll bet China is already looking for other sources of iron ore in order to remove the "nuclear" option from our armoury.

      However, Australian businesses and industry have been extraordinarily lazy when it comes to marketing their products. Selling most/all of one's products to one customer (especially a dishonourable one like China) is asking for trouble. Hopefully they'll now spend some time to spread the risk.

  14. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Re: Fearsome New Chinese Cyber-Weaponry

    El Reg, if they can be bovvered, can very quickly and easily discover a whole raft of spectacular news of similar fearless novel cyber-weaponry presenting itself for positively reinforcing, mutually beneficial peer review prior to engagement with, and deployment in, home forces for UKGBNI sources and Cabinet Government Ministries

    The contents therein are unlocked and to be seen using the following pass key which opens up a veritable Pandora's Box of Almighty Disruptive Tricks and Delectable Delights...... but that's the cost and price of progress I guess. One can't make an omelette without breaking a few good eggs.

    Date: 2 Dec 2020, 17:39 +0000

    To: michael.gove.mp@parliament.co.uk

    Subject: Future Solutions in Virtual Applications

    If no one can find it there, or they are loathe there to show you what they have been sent to share with you, let us know here and we'll hunt out a carbon copy for you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fearsome New Chinese Cyber-Weaponry

      up

  15. G.Y.

    booze

    Should we all start buying Australian wine? China has a 200%+ tax on it now

  16. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    The Bamboo Curtain

    I don't fault president Nixon for using China for leverage against the USSR. But it has been screamingly obvious to anyone paying attention since the late-80's at least that China is a hyper-aggressive oppressive power. I know that long-term conflicts are no fun, but we should have been isolating China politically and economically by the mid-90's at the latest. If we had, it would have cost us 2-3% of our GDP. But we did not.

    I am reminded of something said by Winston Churchill, “If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.”

  17. Norman123

    Julian Assange Freedom of speech?

    I wonder how Julian Assange feels about freedom of information/press/human rights/journalist rights from "democracies" especially Australia, France, UK, US, all of whom praised him and gave him awards until he published things they did NOT like....

    Human rights/truth is a strange subject; it seems tp morph into different forms depending on the angle of observers....

    Of course everyone knows the coalition of the willing is spreading "democracy" in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, but did not complete doing so in Syria and the remaining axis of evil....

  18. The Central Scrutinizer

    Ad unconscionable and reprehensible as any war crimes may have been, the whole ADF is being smeared by the actions of a small minority. Not trying to defend their actions, just saying.

    China's government is waging economic warfare on Australia with basically non-existent arguments.

    They've got the shits with us because we dare to stand up for ourselves.

    Let's talk about suppression of the Uighur people, building illegal islands in the South China Sea and "re-education" camps.

    Pot, kettle, black.

    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      More like coal, diamond, black.

      No fighting force in history has been flawless (like no real diamond), but comparing bad actions by a single company to the official policies of a major nation state is cowardice.

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