Fraud Management & Cybercrime , Social Media

Canada Accuses China of 'Spamoflauge' Onslaught

Campaign Comprised of Deep Fake Videos and More Than 15,000 Disinformation Posts
Canada Accuses China of 'Spamoflauge' Onslaught
Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau on July 21, 2023 in New York City. (Image: Shutterstock)

Canada accused China of running a social media disinformation campaign aimed at members of Parliament and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Global Affairs Canada said Monday that actors connected to the Chinese government used new or hijacked social media accounts to bombard targets on Facebook and Twitter (now officially "X") with accusations of criminal or ethical violations. Canada attributed the campaign to an operation elsewhere traced to Chinese law enforcement and known as "Spamouflage" (see: Facebook Links Massive Disinformation Operation to China).

The campaign, which began in August and accelerated in early September, also likely involved deepfake videos. The same bots involved in the campaign earlier asserted that wildfires in Hawaii were caused by a U.S. military “weather weapon.” Canadian media reports that 47 members of Parliament were targets.

“This campaign could discourage and make it difficult for MPs to carry out their duties and may dissuade MPs and diaspora communities in Canada from speaking out on issues which concern them,” Global Affairs Canada said. A spokeswoman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted a denial.

Relations between Ottawa and Beijing have been further soured this year by detection of illegal police stations patrolling the Chinese diaspora population - China says they are "service centers" for its nationals - and previous accusations of China targeting a Canadian legislator with a disinformation campaign on WeChat. Conservative Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Michael Chong has criticized China's treatments of its Uyghur minority. Ottawa expelled a Chinese diplomat in May after accusations that Beijing mounted an intimidation campaign against Chong, who has family ties in Hong Kong.

Canada in September initiated an independent public inquiry to investigate allegations of attempted foreign interference in Canadian affairs by China and Russia.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute published research bolstering Canada's claims about the Chinese disinformation campaign. The Canberra-based think tank says around 2,000 inauthentic social media accounts published more than 15,000 posts in English, French and Mandarin on X Facebook and YouTube to target at least 50 Canadian politicians from both major political parties. The still-active campaign tapered off inintensity after the September announcement of the public inquiry into foreign interference, ASPI wrote.

Trudeau appears to have been the primary target of the campaign, with about a quarter of the posts mentioning him by name. One video purports to show a political video blogger of Chinese heritage based in Canada stating that Trudeau "loves pornography." The obviously manipulated video could be "the first publicly unearthed example of the Chinese Communist Party using an AI-enabled face swap in its internationally focused information operations and disinformation campaigns," the think tank said


About the Author

Mihir Bagwe

Mihir Bagwe

Principal Correspondent, Global News Desk, ISMG

Bagwe previously worked at CISO magazine, reporting the latest cybersecurity news and trends and interviewing cybersecurity subject matter experts.




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