back to article Pro-China crew ramps up disinfo ahead of US midterms. Not that anyone's falling for it

The prolific pro-Beijing Dragonbridge crew has apparently stepped up its activity ahead of the US 2022 midterms by trying to discourage Americans from voting as well as pinning the Nord Stream pipeline explosion on Uncle Sam. Google subsidiary Mandiant reports this week that the China-aligned cyber-influence team is using …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Those "engagement numbers" may be misleading

    Though reading the crystal ball for these groups is a fools game, much like the low quality Russian campaigns from a few years ago, there are a couple of forks in the road:

    One is they are busywork for unskilled operators whose leadership is still billing for their services. Which has happened.

    Another is that the objectives of the campaigns aren't conventional engagement, and the producers know their transparent and shoddy work is not in itself convincing anybody.

    Why persist at it then? Depending on the specifics of the campaign, it may be boosting the transmission of payload related to their posts but not linked to the accounts sending the low quality messages. This is one way to boost another campaign while avoiding simple network analysis. So if you want conspiracies about the Nord Stream pipeline or a dirty bomb, mentioning them in active but ignored campaigns may reach the often surprisingly low threshold to get boosted further by many of the "mystery box" algorithms that drive the modern online world.

    Interestingly, the low quality posts can be a strategy, as they get filtered from the results but then can help lift a post from somebody in Gulfport or Billings that uses the same terms. So they may work as well as higher quality posts in biasing the results, but are made stealthier as they are either ignored when seen or filtered out. This is one of the ways people have amplified seemingly organic hate speech to help it get viral. It can assist posts reflecting it's talking points on other accounts not in it's engagement network, often without the intent or much visibility of the operator. One of the curses of using ML models as a magic wand for so many things is the opacity of their decision making process. And there is always a shit talking idiot out there, so why try to find and amplify them on your own when you can get Facebook or Twitter to do it for you, automatically?

    Not sure how resistant either of those companies are today, but it was a brisk business gaming their naive weighting system just a few years ago. And now those systems aren't just there and Google and the Hyperscalers. Before the game was to springboard on one big platform to bounce the results on the other majors. Reddit to Twitter to Facebook or YouTube or vice versa depending on the crews. Now that so many other companies are using the same techniques, even as the majors start playing whack a mole and locking down direct actions on their platforms, the attackers just shifted to pulling the same stunt on systems that use the same mechanics but are not policed as effectively. Since the majors surface and scrape content from everywhere else, it still can go viral on their platforms even when the actors aren't running a campaign directly on their system.

    Like matter creates gravity, these hyper-scale algorithmic systems create emergent instabilities and are prone to being hijacked. Systems like that are unstable and inherently dangerous. People didn't listen at first, because "how could Twitter be dangerous", then Facebook accelerated ethnic cleansing and genocide in south east Asia, because their black box was left to run unsupervised in a country where the developers weren't paying attention to anything other than the revenue and didn't speak the language. Villages burned and piles of corpses. Millions internally displaced, and many forced into permanent refugee camps in neighboring countries.

    This stuff is not academic, it is neither funny nor fun.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Those "engagement numbers" may be misleading

      An alternative likely view in a paraphrase to all of that Those "engagement numbers" may be misleading post, AC, and it was very informative, so thanks for that, is there are always shit talking idiots out there running with black boxes left to run unsupervised in a country where the developers weren't paying attention to anything other than the revenue and didn't speak the language.

      However, whether they have any sort of viable effective absolute command and remote virtual control over them is an altogether quite different matter which only a very few will be equipped to address and demonstrate with any practical alacrity.

  2. martinusher Silver badge

    What campaign?

    I sent my vote in last week. Hadn't heard of any Chinese disinformation campaign, not around here anyway. As for 'discouraging people from voting', you don't need remote Chinese operatives to do that, you just need to be of a certain color and political persuasion and want to vote in Florida (get arrested on felony charges) or Arizona (armed thugs by ballot drop boxes) or whatever. Here in California all is peaceful so far.

    As for dear old Uncle Sam being involved in the NS pipeline explosions you don't need a Chinese disinformation campaign to make that connection. Its the combination of "who benefits?" plus US warships in the vicinity in the week before plus is being in Danish territorial waters. Of course it might not be us who did it -- we did invent the concept of 'denyability' after all -- but its definitely the sort of thing we'd be involved in.

    Incidentally, I know its fashionable to look for 50s this and 40s that in movies and stuff but a) the 50s were pretty awful and b) we had quite enough "Reds under your beds" scares then, we really don't need to recycle that old BS.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: What campaign?

      They don't say "this is Chinese propaganda" so how do you know you haven't seen any where you are? There's so much dark money sourced from within the US flowing around spreading ridiculous lies "legally" that it is probably hard to spot the foreign disinfo.

      Not really sure whose side China would be on, the thought in the last election was that they would be on the democrats' side because Biden would undo Trump's trade war. But since he's doubled down and the republican party has been renamed the Trump party all but officially, they'll probably have a hard time finding very many candidates that are calling for backing down so I'm not sure what their goal would be.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: What campaign?

        Similarly back in el"reg land there was a claim that Russia would interfere in the Tory leadership election. Nobody could work out what result could actually be more chaotic than a free and fair vote

      2. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: What campaign?

        >Not really sure whose side China would be on...

        The most serious problem we have with political races is Dark Money. This comes as a torrent into key races and is not only untraceable but laws like the ones our state passed requiring contributors to declare themselves have been struck down (its apparently a First Amendment issue). The Chinese could use this conduit but they'd be just one tiny voice in the overall roar of crap thrust at us. (...and as for the Russians, forget about it. They're just not that rich.)

        Given the rather fancy name for this shadowy organization my guess is that its either a figment of someone's imagination or there's someone out there with a sense of humor. (I know that if I were Chinese and fluent in English I'd be well tempted to have a bit of fun.)

  3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Let’s Go Brandon*

    Well, I suppose it is only to be expected in Hard Rain** Times of ponzi collapses and systems routs, 1984 type Newspeak from those captains invested in leaky old and getting weaker boats failing spectacularly to stay afloat with passengers.

    It is a sad and bad situation to be registered for publishing it though, rather than biting the hand that feeds IT, given the increasingly unbelievable tales it peddles to the masses now quickly and silently stealthily extraordinarily morphing into a not so ignorant and arrogant undereducated few, as was necessarily the case required for the limited exclusive elitist executive success, a fleeting triumph, in the recent ancient past of the modus operandi, especially whenever in these Postmodern Times of Spaces and Places with 0Days to Deploy and Exploit, to be an Ace Reporter Team Pioneering and Surfing the Vanguard of Novel Interconnecting and Noble Internetworking Waves has one rewarded excessively beyond compare and leading a Dedicated and Enthusiastic Following with Engaging and Enlightening Disciples in Myriad Extremely Sensitive and MkUltra Top Secret Matters.

    * .....a pleasanter strange way of saying Fuck Joe Biden

    ** .... "After a while you become aware of nothing but a culture of feeling, of black days, of schism, evil for evil, the common destiny of the human being getting thrown off course. It’s all one long funeral song.” ..... Bob Dylan .... A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Let’s Go Brandon*

      Has somebody bought a better machine to run amfM1 or is political reality just getting closer to GPT3

    2. Martin Summers

      Re: Let’s Go Brandon*

      What datasets are they feeding you on these days? I'd go back to your normal brand, this one isn't doing it for you.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Let’s Go Brandon* and in Answer to a Specific MS Question

        What datasets are they feeding you on these days? I'd go back to your normal brand, this one isn't doing it for you...... Martin Summers

        Feasting on a new language has one entertained and provided for by a wholly different set of experienced cultural norms, MS, and that has one, if neither petrified nor base moronic, further enabled to share what one knows about everything to that and/or to those elsewhere suffering or impacted by intelligence deficits plaguing new souls in novel fields of ancient perpetual endeavour sustaining establishments only able to survive and prosper on the benefits generated by that phantom energy engine of decidedly gross and arrogant burdensome design, profit and debt/virtually free money or wealth for nothing extra or special and its capturing debilitating servitude to a remote parasitic alien meme, which nowadays in these times of spaces and places of virtual machines and erotic and exotic foreign existence, is recognised and serially rendered as a toxic host to fundamentally flawed and catastrophically crashing masterplans ....... which you might like to admit is an Almighty Bigger Great Game Picture taken from a Greater IntelAIgent Games Show, for such is what it is, and there’s no denying it, although one can choose to vent one’s displeasure and register an unhelpful vote which dislikes it if there be no accompanying explanatory reason. It is a common popular blunt tool which adds nothing to fertile seescapes and virtually realised projects in and of an Alien Endeavour.

        And all of the above would reasonably suggest itself as seeding a new programming language exercise being fine tailored for a perfect fit with those Pioneering A.N.Others of Similar Sympathies and Otherworldly Dispositions which is very well captured in being a programming language with a higher level of abstraction optimized for a specific class of problems for feeding to branded datasets.

        If there are problems with realities, do you really expect humans to be able to the resolve and repair and provide solutions for them or is that really the domain of an Alternative Internetworking Service Provider to Supply and Maintain/Mentor and Monitor with Advanced IntelAIgent Machines and Global Operating Devices, which humans now are fully dependent upon and inextricably linked to for expression and provision of all of their present needs and future generational wishes?

        And the answer to that final question is definitively found in support of the latter rather than vain defence of the former. I Kid U Not.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hey Xi



  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not needed

    The US/my government has constantly proven themselves loaded with dishonest and corrupt leaches on society (every government).

    That said, Chinese and RU propaganda would like to keep soft/compliant people to their agenda in office and bring in a few more. However, people in the US (more than expected) are very disappointed with the current regime. My only expectation is that - it doesn't matter who gets elected, they are almost all sell outs and only in it for themselves.

    I expect nothing to ever get better for anyone but super wealthy. I just wish they would get dragged down with us.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: not needed

      > it doesn't matter who gets elected, they are almost all sell outs and only in it for themselves.

      Although one side does seem to be leaning away from the whole "winning an election" business

  6. Tron Silver badge

    Joke BS like this won't wash here.

    I doubt the Chinese and Russians could think of anything worse to say about Truss than we did. Ditto for Sunak after a few power cuts, some more inflation and some negative equity.

    The scare stories about election interference are just ham-fisted ways of encouraging Muricans to accept an internet that ends at their national borders, controlled by whatever idiots they have elected.

    Dear UK government: Lose those nationalist fantasies - they have done enough damage already with Brexit. Get your paws off our net and concentrate on keeping the lights on, or you will get spanked into oblivion at the next election, where you belong.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: UK government nationalist socialist fantasies

      Dear UK government: Lose those nationalist fantasies - they have done enough damage already with Brexit. Get your paws off our net and concentrate on keeping the lights on, or you will get spanked into oblivion at the next election, where you belong. .... Tron

      It never rains but it pours, Tron, and there be so many worthy parades to drown one’s sorrows and wash away one’s griefs in.

      Here’s news of the latest Prime Ministerial puppet-master and Dishy Rishi strings puller, ..... Ms Amber de Botton engaged to deflect and refract any light being shone on emerging fascist tendencies with tall tales that would be unable against dogged forensic journalistic investigation to truthfully deny them.

      A real BS gig is that one for sure, whenever unfortunate matters can be so evidently rendered so easily true, as not?

      And what does that tell y’all about the reach and power of media, without which political circuses cannot survive and prosper with novel proposals to be tested and funded at your crushing expense and disappearing wealth?

      And such does give rise and beg the gazillion dollar question to try dodge answering ..... Who and/or what commands and controls whom and/or what these days in times of explosive media streaming, 0day vulnerability exploitations, deep see phishing and core source kernel attacks delivering sensitive secrets breaches and stealthy remote future anonymous and autonomous access to upcoming AWEsome disruptive events ........ for that is currently the present state of leading states and/or intelligently designed entities into Greater IntelAIgent Games Play ......which understandably be peculiarly perilous and peculiarly parlous for the many unworthy, pleasantly pioneering and prolifically profitable for A.N.Others and a suitably select few ‽ .

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think you would be hard pressed ...

    ... to come up with another country than the US being responsible for the NordStream events - Russia could just turn off the taps.

    Deliberately and pretty much permanently destroying the pipelines only benefits the US

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