Two Six Technologies' M3 Biannual Report on Online Information Manipulation

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Disrupt and Overwhelm: Strategies for achieving information advantage over the PRC in the online information environment 

Two Six Tech’s Media Manipulation Monitor (M3) tracks the People’s Republic of China’s manipulation of the information environment on Chinese and global social media platforms and every six months releases analysis of this data in the Biannual Manipulation Report. This year’s report found that in 2023 the PRC manipulated online content to undermine global perception of the US-led world order, promote Beijing-aligned viewpoints, limit PRC civilian opinion on international conflicts and China’s economy, and intimidate overseas critics.

  • The PRC’s propaganda apparatus launched at least 700 overt campaigns or responses to events on global social media platforms such as X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, and Telegram, of which the most frequent aim was to promote a PRC-aligned world order as a counterbalance to a US-led world order.
  • News-sharing deals allowed PRC state media to occupy up to 73% of the world’s English-language news on specific events, but on average PRC content made up only 0.13% of the total English-language news published around the world outside China.
  • The PRC’s online manipulation apparatus influenced at least 1,800 discussions on China’s domestic social media platforms, of which the greatest focus was on international conflicts and China’s economy.
  • Pro-PRC inauthentic accounts, likely backed by Beijing, authored at least 37 unique campaigns on global social media, of which one fifth of the content aimed to slander and intimidate overseas individuals or groups critical of the PRC.

The US government and other parties interested in gaining information advantage over Beijing in the global information space can achieve success by interfering with and slowing down the PRC’s manipulation apparatus. 

Beijing’s massive information manipulation program has asymmetric advantages over competitors, for example, the PRC’s ability to take actions and convey narratives that adhere to a single top-line goal or its ability to limit discussion among its civilians. However, the system’s strengths come with vulnerabilities. M3’s review of 2023 data, combined with five years of research on the PRC’s information manipulation system, reveal Beijing’s information control system’s weaknesses, such as its centralized command, sprawling bureaucracy of decentralized actors, state-mandated schedule, and heavy reliance on humans for online manipulation efforts.

This year’s Biannual Manipulation Report offers tactical suggestions on how to exploit PRC vulnerabilities to achieve information advantage. Reach out to [email protected] for more information.