U.S. Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Jackie Speier (D-CA), members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, recently forwarded correspondence to Twitter CEO Elon Musk regarding insight into People’s Republic of China (PRC) social media influence.
The legislators inquired about the possibility the PRC may have used a network platform manipulation campaign on Twitter, resulting in restricted access to news about protests in the PRC, citing concerns about the potential impacts of PRC’s cyber capabilities.
“We are gravely concerned about the potential impacts of the PRC’s growing cyber-enabled capabilities, including foreign malign influence operations, on U.S. national security interests both at home and abroad,” the legislators wrote. “We respectfully request that you provide us with additional information regarding the recent malicious activity and include any indications whether this activity was directed by the PRC.”
Chinese protestors recently took to the streets of several major cities and university campuses after a fire killed 10 people and injured nine in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region. Protestors blamed the PRC’s coronavirus lockdown measures for delaying the firefighters’ arrival and called for an end to the restrictions.
“CCP authorities violently cracked down on the protests, reportedly beating, dragging and pushing protestors,” the legislators wrote. “Video evidence of these confrontations, however, was suppressed online. CCP censors scrubbed them from the internet in China, and on Sunday, Nov. 27, numerous Chinese-language accounts and bots spammed Twitter with links to escort services alongside city names in what researchers believe was an effort to suppress news regarding the widespread protests.”
The legislators specifically want to identify how recent changes at Twitter impact the threat of CCP foreign influence operations on social media, asking if Twitter:
- Had any indication that the obstruction of access to Tweets on recent demonstrations in the People’s Republic of China was state-led;
- Has any evidence on its platform of efforts by the People’s Republic of China or any other state actors to deliberately suppress access to information through the use of bots or other manipulations;
- Can identify large-scale misinformation, disinformation, and information suppression on its platform as it occurs;
- Has measures in place or underway to block efforts to prevent access to information through the network, given its emphasis on free speech.