on Twitter, erotic spam drowns images of disputes

Thousands of sexually suggestive content are constantly being posted on pages linked to protests against Beijing’s “zero-Covid” policy since the start of the outbreak.

An avalanche of erotic content. This is the parade set up to drown on Twitter the images and information linked to the demonstrations of anger against health restrictions and for more freedoms, which have erupted in China since the end of November. FRANCE 24 Observers were the first to spot this digital anomaly.

A simple search is enough to see it: any Internet user who types in Chinese characters the names of the cities where the most important gatherings took place, Beijing (北京), Shanghai (上海), Nanjing (南京), Zhengzhou (郑州), Canton (广州), or Wuhan (武汉), immediately falls on mostly erotic or suggestive tweets, in the middle of which it becomes difficult to find video extracts or messages concerning the demonstrations.

Fake IT Managed Accounts

The Twitter accounts that broadcast these messages are probably fake accounts: their date of creation dates back at best to a few months and they have very few subscribers or subscriptions. The images and videos they post are reposted at breakneck speeds by other accounts, a sign that these accounts are likely run by computer programs designed to bombard Twitter with polluting images.

This photograph, for example, is reposted approximately every minute by this account, which has only two followings and no followers. The profile photograph appears on other accounts that also post the same sexually suggestive image. A simple reverse search on Baidu, the “Chinese Google”, shows that most of these erotic images come from Chinese dating sites or porn sites.

Another example: this account, which has only seven subscribers and no following, was created in November 2022 and broadcasts an image like this every minute, with messages that are supposed to be catchy, in this case: “I’m single, will I find a husband on Twitter?»

The Chinese regime behind the censorship?

It is difficult to provide objective proof of Beijing’s responsibility behind this vast digital censorship operation. But the method employed leaves little room for doubt. It is very rare that pornographic or sexual content is disseminated on social networks: the Chinese government usually takes care to stifle this type of content. It is therefore almost impossible for independent Internet users to be the source of these messages.

One thing is certain, control of Twitter is a major influence issue for the Chinese regime. If the social network is theoretically prohibited in the Middle Empire, it actually constitutes a space of freedom which largely escapes Beijing. The proof: the images of the demonstrations, although drowned, remain accessible.

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