China has begun mining social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter in order to obtain data from Western targets. This is done for the military, police and government agencies. 

Washington Post has reviewed the bidding documents for more than 300 Chinese government projects and found that they are purchasing sophisticated and newer data surveillance systems.   

Documents revealed that the Chinese government purchased software for mining social media in order to compile a list of academics and journalists.

Officials also purchased a $216,000 Beijing police intelligence program that targets Hong Kong and Taiwan and a Xinjiang cybercenter that catalogues Uyghur language content abroad. 

A Chinese Central Propaganda Department analyst said that software will help the state ‘better comprehend the underground network anti-China personnel.

A network of alarm systems will be set up by the leaders of the country to alert them immediately to any trend that may threaten or undercut their interests. 

China's systems for analyzing domestic public opinion online are a large pillar of President Xi Jinping's (pictured) initiative to modernize the country's 'propaganda apparatus and maintain control over the Internet'

China’s online systems to analyze domestic opinion are a key pillar in President Xi Jinping (pictured) effort to modernize China’s propaganda apparatus’ and retain control of the Internet.

China is mining social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, to harvest data on western targets for its military, police and government agencies

China has begun mining social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter in order to collect data from western targets that it can use for its military and police forces, as well government agencies.

Some of the highly customizable programs China is purchasing are used to collect real-time data from individual social media users, while others track broad trends including US elections. This type of data collection is banned by both Twitter and Facebook, unless prior authorization has been given

China’s highly configurable programs can be customized to track trends and even monitor elections in the United States. Twitter and Facebook prohibit this type of data collection unless authorization is given.

China’s internal internet-data surveillance network is being used to obtain information from western targets. This part of an overall drive to enhance foreign propaganda. 

The newspaper obtained documents that showed the Chinese government had budgeted to buy and maintain foreign accounts for its propaganda and police departments.

Others purchases included small-scale, automatic programs as well large projects that cost hundreds of thousands of dollar. Also, the state budgets for 24 hour staffing teams with English-speaking specialists and experts in foreign policy. 

These highly customizable programs allow you to track trends and even monitor the US elections. Some are also used for real-time data collection from users of social media. 

China Daily’s state-backed publication China Daily published a July 2020 bid document for a $300,000.00 ‘foreign personnel analytics platform’. 

The document said that we are in competition with Western media outlets and the US, so the fight for the right to talk has already begun. 

The company also provided specifications for a program to mine Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube for information on “well-known Western media journalists” and other “key personnel from business, political and media circles.”

It would collect the data and save it on Chinese servers in real time for further analysis.  

Twitter and Facebook have banned this kind of data collection, except where prior authorization was given. 

“Our API allows real-time access only to tweets and public data. It does not allow for private information. According to our terms and developer policy, we prohibit the use of our API in surveillance cases,” Katie Rosborough (a Twitter spokesperson) told The Washington Post. 

Facebook has not yet responded to our request.

People familiar with China’s software network and the effort were described as “terrifying” by those who are well-versed in the matter. This is a sign of the determination that the government has to fight public opinion.

Mareike Ohlberg (a senior fellow at The German Marshall Fund) stated that they are now shifting some of their efforts outward.

“It shows they feel that it is their duty to protect China and wage war on public opinion overseas. 

China’s system for analyzing domestic opinions online is a major pillar of President Xi Jinping’s effort to modernize China’s propaganda apparatus and keep control over the Internet. 

The large data collection and monitoring will offer government officials insight into public opinion and provide technical surveillance for the nation's censorship apparatus (Pictured: President Xi Jinping delivering his New Year speech on December 31, 2021)

The large data collection and monitoring will offer government officials insight into public opinion and provide technical surveillance for the nation’s censorship apparatus (Pictured: President Xi Jinping delivering his New Year speech on December 31, 2021)

This large-scale monitoring and data collection will provide government officials with insight into the public’s opinions and allow technical surveillance to support the country’s censorship apparatus. 

Officials say monitoring and analysis is essential for ‘public opinions guidance work.’ This program, which aims to shape public opinion against Beijing via censorship and targeted propagandism, claims officials.

The nation’s public opinion efforts date back to 1989 in response to the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations.

Although the scope of the country’s public opinion monitoring network remains unknown, a newspaper supported by the state reported that more than 2,000,000 people worked as public opinion analysts in 2014.

In 2018, another government approved media outlet described the industry as being worth ‘tens of billions of yuan,’ which is equivalent to billions of dollars. According to the official, 50 percent of industry growth was occurring each year.

Twitter banned 23,000 accounts thought to have been linked to the Chinese Communist Party.

Platform claimed that the accounts had been spreading fake propaganda to weaken pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong. 

Twitter announced that it had removed 2,048 more accounts related to Beijing and other propaganda activities as of December 2021.

Experts think that these accounts only represent a tiny fraction of Chinese accounts.