How to Spot a ChiCom Twitter Troll
With everybody stuck inside for the foreseeable future, a lot more Americans are online than ever before. They're looking for information, support, a connection with the outside world. (Why, some of them might even be reading this right now. Hello and welcome!) And the entity that's directly responsible for this disastrous global coronavirus pandemic, the Chinese Communist Party, knows this. They're closely monitoring online traffic, looking for anyone who's telling the truth about what China has done to the world. And they're fighting back by unleashing a literal army of bots and trolls to shout people down and spread disinformation.
I'll give you a few examples of what I'm talking about. Over the past two weeks, I've been swarmed by more bots on Twitter than in the entire previous 11 years since I signed up. And most of them have been Chinese. Twitter is unavailable to the average citizen of the People's Republic of China, and the volume and ferocity of the initial assault indicate that it's coordinated. Maybe this has happened to you too. Chances are, the person yelling at you or trying to make you question consensus reality is not an average Joong Sixpack. He or she is an agent of the Chinese government, trying to intimidate Twitter users or gaslight them into rejecting the evidence of their own senses.
All last week I blocked hundreds of these bots and trolls. Every time I mentioned "China" or "Chinese" or any of the other keywords they're obviously designed to suppress, they'd swarm me. Then they left me alone for a while. Then, this week I started seeing stuff like this:
Hey, everybody, meet my new friend Gary. Or as I like to call him, "Gary." Well now, "Gary" does raise an interesting point. "This country," meaning the United States and not China, does indeed contain some cities that you wouldn't really call clean. Mind you, the U.S. didn't suppress news of a coronavirus outbreak within our borders and allow it to spread until it endangered the entire world, but I'm sure Detroit has its own problems too. It's really no better than Wuhan, if you don't think about it.
Let's take a closer look at "Gary's" Twitter profile:
Recently created account. No followers. Eight digits in the screen name. Just happened to see my tweet criticizing the government of China and felt compelled to answer it. Seems legit! Well, at least it's written in something resembling colloquial English.
Here's another one in the same vein:
Another new pal. FixLawd, that sounds American as hell, don't it? Yeee-haw, FixLawd! And his avatar is even a stock car, just like the ones those crazy Yankees race around in. That's some really good work right there, fellas.
Another nonsensical defense of China's crimes, delivered in everyday English by an everyday "American." Let's look at our new friend's profile:
Why, our new buddy FixLawd joined just this month. Doesn't have any more followers than "Gary" has. And somehow he decided to answer my simple, legitimate question with another non sequitur. I guess there are worse jobs you can get in Beijing. It's either this or a wet market.
I hope that gives you an idea of what you're in for if you decide to go on Twitter and tell the truth about what the government of China has done to the world. Hang in there, and feel free to drop me a line if you find more examples like this. There are potentially 1.386 billion more people like this who can jump on Twitter and try to trip you up, although that number is probably dropping a lot faster than the Chinese government is telling us.
Finally, a special note to Lijian Zhao (@zlj517), who is the Deputy Director of the Foreign Ministry Information Department of the People's Republic of China and a frequent Twitter user:
您没有您想像的那么聪明，并不是所有的美国人都像我们的记者一样愚蠢和腐败。 我们知道您在做什么，我们知道您为什么在做。 您可以杀死我们，但不能强迫我们说出您的谎言。