In France, during the “Yellow Vests” movement, there's has been a lot of progovernment activity on Twitter from accounts which were obvious fake ones: with a photo stock profile picture and a username made of “(often vintage) French first name+ 5 or 6 random figures”.
I suspect this is frequent among western countries too but I don't have evidence except for my country, if you have such stories for your country, please share.
I know of a few here in Germany, and I have no doubt that they would gleefully publish any US government networks they come across. And with the extreme polarisation in the US, there should be plenty of people or publications on either side to do the same.
The fact that, as far as I can tell, these tend not to be bots but manually-run fake accounts might point to an explanation of the relative lack of such activity: it might just be too expensive. And when it comes to networks targeting other countries, every country that isn't natively English- or Spanish-speaking is relatively save because you aren't going to find hundreds of Americans speaking Russian willing to work for low wages and reliably keep quiet about it.
That, of course, is in addition to the obvious reason that democratic countries by their very nature just don't do stuff like that. But I have a hunch the ever-cynical crowd here would take offence at the idea that some countries and governments sometimes don't behave in the worst possible way.
They absolutely do, with varying levels of transparency. I remember getting annoyed when the Scotland Office were posting anti-independence propaganda in the form of Buzzfeed listicles: https://www.buzzfeed.com/youdecide2014/scotland-the-uk-10-my...
Now, a couple of clicks will reveal that "you decide 2014" do say that they're the UK government, but it's not instantly obvious when you're looking at the Buzzfeed article.
The current UK Transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has previous for running a firm to game Google AdSense: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/sep/02/grant-shapp...
There have been several announcements of UK web propaganda operations: https://www.realwire.com/releases/British-Army-to-present-at... / https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/31/british-army...
Democracy isn't a black and white things. Turkey is a democracy, no matter how corrupt and authoritarian Erdogan is. And democracy-wise France is arguably closer to Turkey than to the UK anyway.
I am afraid I don't have a reference, but some years ago I read about a request for bids on persona management software on fbo.gov, so one person could run many accounts.
Being too cynical is certainly as wrong as being too naive. This sound a bit like that latter. I would think the Russian influence stories were a form of simple propaganda. That was not a mistake by intelligence because they already knew long before. They didn't plant bots though, that is too expensive for most countries, especially if the language barrier is that high. China might employ some people, but it is unfeasible for most countries.
To be honest, I think people accusing others to be bots are wrong in 99.9% of cases.
Yes, lots of people heard about bots and use the accusation incorrectly. But in many cases actual sockpuppets are easy to spot. There's lots of accounts used only for propaganda for example and switch from Chinese-supporting messages when there's something happening in China to Russia supporting content following some news, to Trump supporting the next month before elections. They don't even bother deleting old messages, because most people don't check / doesn't care.
I reported dozens of accounts spreading propaganda in 2014 and it was never actioned. This was everything from handbooks through to assassination clips.
It makes it worse when you consider that Twitter was their primary media and, had Twitter not followed the US line and actioned the genuine reports, then the impact ISIS had could have been reduced.
But that said - it’s not like Twitter is alone in their adherence to US gov foreign policy. All mainstream US media (WaPo, WSJ, NY Times, Economist et al) do the same thing. There is hardly any independence in international reporting.
But apparently there are some real accounts that follow this pattern. I have no idea why. Maybe Twitter suggests this username?
But yeah, stock photo/"generic"/drawing or no photo are more telling.
They should require all parties posting on behalf of a state or as part of a contract for a state identify themselves...
The government has asked things not to be published in the past, particularly in the aeropspace sector. Sometime the press has complied, sometimes it hasn't.
Hell, the organization I used to work for has at least 3 pieces of TS material on their wikipedia page. Years back I brought my concerns to the security manager and they said "the worst thing you can do with classified material is try to remove it, because you're just validating that it's classified and correct."
Is journalism a protected profession? In my country journalists are not, so they have the same rights/obligations as anyone.
> The person who gets in trouble is the one who broke the laws and gave the material to the press.
What if the information leaked contained evidence of crime? We have still people in prison for that...
Biden, Trump and various members of both camps command more than enough attention through their own Twitter accounts.
Likewise pushing political agendas is largely superfluous given you can just lobby politicians directly without needed public support.
(he did leave for a footnote that for examples of pornographic propaganda one would have to visit archives at an address in Washington DC; guess that'd be the 1950's talking)
Additionally, does it merit discriminating between offensive and defensive psy-ops? Might there, for example, be government-controled bots injecting wholesomememes content into the feeds of depressed government employees? Does Twitter have a different obligation in that context?
That doesn't seem to have stopped them from banning accounts posting in Chinese.
> government-controled bots injecting wholesomememes content into the feeds of depressed government employees
That would still be "coordinated inauthentic behavior".
In the small towns around the Seattle area there have been multiple false claims of antifa planned attacks, leading to lots of people pulling out their guns. Here's one where someone visiting from out of town took pics of kids walking around and made wild accusations that they were 'outsiders' who were threatening - yet he was the outsider who was making up threats. 
That's a lot of 五毛
Instead, we probably should label this group as the “government sponsored online moderator” "网评员”. This is more revealing of what actually is happening, I.e. Chinese government hires people to influence and monitor online communities.
On the other hand, there are many people who does think CCP and Chinese government is good overall, and support them. Which I do not think it's fair to label them as "五毛”. In case you find this unbelievable, I'll risk being further misinterpreted, by citing the die hard trump supporters being labeled "white supremacists", which I believe is harming the unity of this country.
Here's another example: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23495221
Read my own comments to understand that I'm as anti-CCP as anyone on HN and extremely cynical about China, but let's not just bury comments for no reason.
Another user expressing a view you dislike is evidence of nothing but that a topic is divisive. Accusing, attacking, and insinuating otherwise about people is one of the most popular internet sports, but it's poison, so we don't allow it here.
I don't have any windows into state activity but we have extensive experience with internet behavior on HN, and I can tell you for certain that the vast majority of these accusations are 100% pure projection. People run across a few data points and connect the dots with their imagination, usually to concoct a sinister picture to explain what they notice and dislike. An internet forum is a massively multiplayer Rorschach test. That's why accusations of abuse need some objective basis or some form of evidence or...something, rather than nothing at all. It's all too easy to fire off rounds of these cheap shots without considering who you may be wounding (because that's what unjust accusation does) or what it does to the community.
It seems that if the distance between the other person's view and our own is too great, it's somehow too much of a stretch to believe that they could possibly be sincere, so we turn them into enemies, manipulators, astroturfers or spies. Now just imagine what this does to someone foreign (say, a 22-year-old Ph.D. student studying in another country and language) when they show up and they get hounded in this way, accused of being a foreign agent or a communist shill or whatever it is—simply because they come from a different background and speak from that perspective.
Is that the kind of community we want to be? how we want to treat others? Of course not; it's ignorant and indecent. What would you say about a small country town that treated outsiders like that? Every HN user would have a lot of choice language to label that sort of behavior in others, and would feel utterly superior to it. Yet we're constructed the same way and do the same thing, and not only do we not see this in ourselves, we're certain that we're right and noble for doing it.
I don't mean to pick on you personally; like I said, it's popular. But it's harmful and it comes from someplace dark in human nature, so please don't go there here. This isn't theoretical—people have already been hounded away from HN simply because they were of a different background and tried to express their views. That's sickening. None of us wants to be a person who would do that or belong to a community that would do that, so let's take conscious care to actually not do it.
HN is a much more international community than it seems, first because HN members are living in many different countries, but also because many HN members immigrated to different countries, or their families did, not so long ago. Some are from China or have Chinese family background, but there are a lot of different backgrounds here. We can either turn that into a strength by building the capacity to hear opposing perspectives, or we can behave like a mob. Unfortunately, mob behavior is the default, because it happens unconsciously and unintentionally, and actually we feel quite innocent when doing so—so if we want any other outcome, we need to work at it. Please let's do that work.
This has come up a lot, especially in the last year or two. Here are some past comments if anyone wants more:
if you have a problem with the statement, can you address where it's inaccurate? or can you be more explicit with your own assertion in order that the rest of us can address where your inaccuracies are.
I was born and raised in mainland China, left to US for PhD at 22.
I gradually understand why westners show various degree of hatred towards the Chinese government, CCP, and not so rarely the Chinese people. And also see the equally ridiculous negative biased of Chinese people towards westners.
From a self-interest perspective, I try to state the less emotional charged description on news relevant to China. Because I am seeing the risk of becoming one of the scapegoat of the Sino-US conflict. For example, while I was called linking to Chinese government, I am equally possible being called "banana man" (yellow skin with white heart, you get the idea) by passionate Chinese netizens.
I am actively risking my reputation on this forum by behaving like this. As for a long time I am well aware of the genuine political and cultural biases.
But I believe this is best for my situation. I cannot just watching the hatred grow between the common people without an action. That is also hurting the my own and my family's future.
What you're most likely getting is (for example, let's say) a Chinese-Canadian Amazon or Microsoft employee, who's been reading HN for years and is suddenly hurt and dismayed by all the aggressive anti-Chinese comments that have been showing up on the site—or (let's say) a Chinese grad student who stayed in the US, got a good job and played by the rules, and back home in China is the one holding the other side of the argument, defending the US and his American friends to his family who have been hearing nasty things about them over there.
It is a difficult position to be in, because you get attacked from both sides, and not just about something small, but in deep and painful places.
I really appreciate that you understand the situation people like us are in. That is especially encouraging given the rapidly deteriorating situation in recent years. The great irony, however, is that, coincidentally, both China and US saw outliner leaders come into power. Like an old Chinese saying “the good fortune never come with a companion, but the ill-fortune seldom come alone” (福无双至祸不单行）.
Aside from activities here, I try to proactively engage with my network in mainland China to debacle common biases towards US. My personal goal is to improve understanding.
I have changed from a heavily indoctrinated young Chinese student to become one who is able to appreciate the deep cultural convictions and altruistic intentions of American people. I have seen the same vigorous pursue of better life and unwavering self reliance from both American and Chinese people. I firmly believe the value structures of American and Chinese people are inherently compatible. The confrontation should be avoidable.
I would be hugely disappointed if US and China end up into Cold War like confrontation. That will be an unprecedented waste of human value, and squander of historical opportunity of advancing the international community to a more productive stage.
This reminded me of the Anna Karenina principle  (but sort of the opposite): "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
Unfortunately, so far, only Chinese government figured out how to do that. And I think any independent individuals would not want to adopt that...
I don't see a need for moderators if many people believe they are good and support them.
It certainly seems like they use them to censor people who object to them and keep themselves in power.
To suggest censoring of the phrase that calls them out is comical.
The above is just my opinion, but I think we're detracting from the main issue in the parent comment, that the term "WuMao" can be considered a derogatory term. Tell me if I'm wrong, but many terms started off neutral, but turned derogatory over time. The example that comes to mind is the N-word that rhymes with aggro, I'm not even sure if it's okay to use that so I'm self-censoring.
This is making the false assumption that "propaganda" is symmetrical and equivalent. From the CCP perspective, "propaganda against the Chinese government" would be to dispute its false and self-serving account of history or to suggest the Chinese people should enjoy Western-style human rights -- basically anything that questions the ultimate authority and dominance of the party.
See: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/20/world/asia/chinas-new-lea... and https://www.chinafile.com/document-9-chinafile-translation.
2) US doesn't need to spread propaganda through Twitter. Trump administration will routinely just come straight out and accuse China of doing X or Y.
Regardless, I don't see how more wrong it is to call someone a "WuMao" than it is to call them a "trump supporter", they should both be allowed.
Edit: I don't know about the intricacies of political correctness, but somehow "trump supporter" feels ok, maybe because it has two words and "supporter" balances "trump". Personally I think "50 cent army" isn't as bad as "WuMao" even though they mean the same thing, go figure.
If you believed your government was good, why would you care about a label that targeted you as a supporter for them?
There seems to be a negative connotation with getting paid to support something, that you're just in it for the money and don't actually mean it.
Of course there are many nuances to the whole issue of labels which I don't have the knowledge or time to go into.
Regardless, being called any form of a shill should not be censored and the root of it's usage comes from a legitimate cause, especially when you're not using the phrase at a specific person, just an event like the GP did.
Using the phrase the way he did, he didn't target anyone but the CCP.
It doesn't need to be censored, but calling people shills just for disagreeing makes a civilized discussion less likely.
I just want to make sure it's not a common mistranslation and that people aren't talking past each other. One side is saying the government is actively lying in order to manipulate people. And the other side might be interpreting as the government working on their public image... which is uh a lot more reasonable when put that way.
Funny how language shape the way we think.
When the Chinese government accuses someone of "actively lying in order to manipulate people", they tend to call it 谣言, i.e. "rumors".
Because if many people thought they were good and supported them they could win on merit alone, not propaganda.
And you might be wrongly thinking I am one of those supporting Chinese government and CCP here.
You can see my other reply above to see more explanation of my position.
I believe we should stand up against dictatorships and challenge them even when we have ties to them.
Being able to say anything and challenge anything is the foundation of freedom, ANY form of censorship threatens that.
People in the U.S. appreciate being able to call out their government leaders I'm sure.
Imagine if you were hauled off at night because of what you posted online.
We should all be standing with Hongkongers on this one.
tldr: the answer to government censorship is not more censorship of phrases ("五毛”) that call them out
If you have other reports about services finding bots that shilled government propaganda from other state actors you're welcome to share them.
I certainly don't like the mainstream media in the US and I do believe they peddle domestic propaganda, that doesn't mean we divulge in whataboutism and distract from this specific article we are all discussing though, definitely not without specific evidence or events.
I figured it was a normal situation where they blocked people and tweeted for her, do you have evidence otherwise?
That could explain it
If you use a bot to retweet "regional and statewide news agencies' posts", that would fall under the description above.