Inauthentic Accounts Pose as Taiwanese Users to Spread Political Memes and Videos Ahead of 2024 Election
Graphika has identified a sustained and coordinated effort to manipulate online conversations about Taiwanese politics ahead of the country’s presidential election in January 2024. The operation was active starting as early as May 2022, employing deceptive behaviors to disseminate Chinese-language videos and memes about Taiwanese political parties across Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. We do not currently attribute this activity to a specific actor based on open-source indicators.
The actors behind this activity leveraged a range of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) associated with online influence operations (IO). These TTPs included the use of likely inauthentic accounts that purported to be Taiwanese residents and displayed profile pictures of real people that were edited to alter their appearance. We also observed signs of coordination, such as different accounts in the operation posting identical content within minutes of each other.
The operation appeared to focus on promoting Taiwan’s Kuomintang (KMT) party while criticizing its opponents, including Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Lai Ching-te, Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) candidate Ko Wen-je, and former independent candidate Terry Gou. The content closely tracked Taiwan’s news cycle, quickly leveraging domestic news developments, such as controversies surrounding an egg shortage and the alleged drugging of toddlers at a kindergarten, to portray the KMT’s opponents as incompetent and corrupt.
Accounts in the operation consistently posted identical sets of hashtags to promote their content. Some posts have previously appeared as top search results on Facebook for #民進黨 [#DPP], #賴清德 [DPP candidate Lai Ching-te], and #侯友宜 [KMT candidate Hou Yu-ih], but we saw little evidence that the operation received engagement from authentic Facebook users.
We assess that attempts by foreign and domestic IO actors to manipulate the online political conversation in Taiwan will very likely increase ahead of the 2024 election. We have previously seen IO actors linked to China repeatedlytarget Taiwanese audiences, and the DPP, TPP, and KMT have all beenaccused of attempting to covertly influence the online political debate.