A pro-China cybergroup is reportedly running an extensive campaign to undermine voter confidence and suppress turnout in the upcoming midterm elections.
Cybersecurity firm Mandiant stated in a report that cybergroup Dragonbridge has waged a misinformation and division campaign using plagiarized and altered news articles. It added that Dragonbridge operatives are extensively using false digital personas to spread misinformation.
According to the report, the group is impersonating another group called Intrusion Truth, which targets malicious Chinese cybergroups to generate credibility for its false claims. (Related: REVEALED: Full list of western media outlets participating in Chinese communist propaganda events.)
The group was also found to be “altering news articles to create fabricated content” that they distribute through social media. Members of the group are creating fake accounts to pose as readers of the same material.
“Most notably, in September 2022, Dragonbridge accounts posted an English-language video across multiple social media platforms containing content attempting to discourage Americans from voting in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections. The video questioned the efficacy of voting and of U.S. government institutions more broadly,” the report said.
It went on to say that the campaign pointed to frequent mentions of “civil war” on social media and incidents of politically motivated violence, including confrontations between individuals supporting opposing parties and acts against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as evidence of the deterioration of the political process and its impending demise.”
This comes amid reports that the Biden administration is mulling a prospective deal to retain TikTok in the United States. Dormer national security officials and industry insiders worry that the terms would leave the app’s U.S. users open to data leaks, hacking and Chinese espionage.
Dragonbridge has been promoting pro-Chinese interests for years in fake grassroots social media campaigns designed to influence politics in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Mandiant is now linking the organization to a series of more U.S.-focused campaigns. Its most brazen act is seeding hundreds of social media posts designed to demoralize voters and reduce turnout ahead of the November midterms.
These actors have been rapidly growing and hyper-aggressive. “They went from carrying out limited campaigns focused on Hong Kong to a global operation on dozens of platforms,” said John Hultquist, Mandiant’s vice president of intelligence analysis. “Interfering in our elections is just another line that they’re clearly willing to cross.”
Mandiant refused to reveal in its report the entire collection of disinformation posts tied to Dragonbridge, but the company said the posts numbered in the thousands. It added that the posts published by these accounts argued that American democracy is being taken over by extreme partisanship.
The group also published a video that discourages Americans from voting, making claims about political gridlock and inaction and showing images of the insurrection at the U.S. capitol building on January 6, 2021. The video stated: “The solution to America’s ills is not to vote for someone, but to root out this ineffective and incapacitated system.”
However, all of the content that Mandiant identified in its report as part of the Dragonbridge operations has since been deleted.
Other influence campaigns from the group also show clear ties to Chinese government, as pseudonyms on Twitter accounts that were controlled by Dragonbridge post claims in both English and Mandarin.
More recently, Dragonbridge sought to blame the U.S. over the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline, which connects European countries to Russian gas sources. Mandiant noted that the claim echoes statements from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This doesn’t mean that Dragonbridge’s campaigns are necessarily the work of a Chinese government agency or even a contractor firm, but Mandiant noted that they’re very likely supporters of China.
“It’s hard to imagine their activity, in its totality, being in any other country’s interest,” Hultquist said.
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