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    Chinese Disinformation Campaign Targets Poland Through Local News Websites


    The Canadian research group Citizen Lab has uncovered a sophisticated Chinese propaganda operation spreading across Poland. According to their latest report titled “Paperwall,” China is orchestrating a disinformation campaign via websites that masquerade as local news outlets, including two Polish-language sites, Bydgoszczdaily.com and WawelExpress.com.

    The investigation identified a total of 123 websites managed from China, designed to mimic local news platforms across 30 countries in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. These websites alternate between publishing genuine local news and disseminating false information that aligns with Chinese governmental interests.

    The primary objective of this disinformation campaign appears to be the promotion of narratives favorable to Beijing within local media landscapes and the execution of personal attacks against critics of Chinese policies. Interestingly, the analysts from Citizen Lab noted that articles targeting opponents of the Chinese government were not permanent fixtures on these websites. Unlike legitimate news, these false reports were regularly deleted, presumably to obscure the origin of the propaganda.

    This strategy of publishing false information aims to capture the attention of regular readers and other news outlets, which might replicate the articles, thereby amplifying their reach. The subsequent removal of such content seems designed to conceal the propaganda’s source. “As a result, there is an elevated risk of local media and target audiences replicating the information, with a rapid adaptation to the local language and proliferation of similar sites,” the report concludes.

    The research suggests that the disinformation campaign is conducted by Shenzhen Haimaiyunxiang Media Co, a Chinese PR firm, in collaboration with Times Newswire, an “agency” previously identified as serving Beijing and Chinese business interests. This connection was also highlighted in a 2022 report by Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm, detailing disinformation operations involving Times Newswire.

    Citizen Lab, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto, is known for its interdisciplinary research on global security issues, including the use of the Israeli Pegasus spyware system in 45 countries, identified in September 2018.

    This revelation underscores the complex challenges faced by nations in combating foreign interference and disinformation within their media landscapes. It also highlights the importance of vigilance among readers and the media industry in identifying and mitigating the impacts of such covert operations.

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