Tens of thousands of accounts connected to an organization known as “Dragonbridge” or “Spamouflage Dragon” that spreads anti-Chinese misinformation on various online platforms have been removed by Google’s Threat Analysis Group.
As per Google, Dragonbridge gets new Google Accounts from bulk account sellers, and even changed to accounts that were previously used by actors who were financially motivated but were repurposed for posting misinformation blogs and videos.
Last year, according to BleepingComputer over 50,000 accounts used by Dragonbridge on its platforms, such as YouTube, Blogger, and AdSense, were deleted last year. Since the influence network was first discovered, a total of 100,960 accounts have been deactivated.
As “the most prolific IO actor TAG tracks,” Google has reportedly focused on this coordinated information campaign with ties to China.
Almost no engagement from real viewers
Despite its size and volume of content production, the Chinese influence operation has little to no engagement from real viewers.
For example, when it was shut down last year, the great majority of its YouTube channels had no subscribers, and more than 80% of videos had fewer than 100 views.
When Dragonbridge blogs were terminated in December, they had relatively low interaction, with less than 10 views per post for over 95% of postings.
“Most DRAGONBRIDGE activity is low quality content without a political message, populated across many channels and blogs. However, a small fraction of DRAGONBRIDGE accounts also post about current events with messaging that pushes pro-China views,” Google TAG’s Zak Butler and Jonas Taege said.
“In 2022, the overwhelming majority of DRAGONBRIDGE content Google disrupted never reached a real audience. Among the 53,177 channels we disabled in 2022, 58% had zero subscribers and 42% of their videos had zero views. 83% of those videos had fewer than 100 views.”
Signs of evolving tactics
Despite the lack of genuine viewer involvement, the pro-Chinese disinformation operation is persistent and adaptable.
Since 2019, the group has been tracked by Google TAG experts, who have regularly changed tactics and experimented with different forms and higher-quality content.
This demonstrates that there is still a potential that the group’s activity will eventually land on the radars of genuine users, increasing the total impact of its content condemning the US and pushing pro-China messaging.
“Despite their failure to gain traction with an authentic audience, DRAGONBRIDGE generates high volumes of content across multiple platforms, is persistent and continues to experiment in their tactics and techniques,” Google added.
“That is why we have scaled our efforts to disrupt DRAGONBRIDGE coordinated inauthentic activity on our platforms.”
News Source: BleepingComputer