These are the gateways for many American citizens on the Internet. The YouTube video platform, the Google and Bing search engines give a large place to the propaganda of the official Chinese media, in particular on the Covid-19 or on the Uighur minority persecuted by Beijing, shows a study by the American think tank Brookings published at the end of May. Videos and articles from Chinese official media thus frequently appear among the first search results of the three platforms.
For three months, Brookings researchers dissected the responses of YouTube, Google and Bing engines to a dozen keywords. Terms referring to conspiracy theories brought up the most suspicious content in the top ten search results. In half of the cases, “Fort Detrick”, for example, revealed content from official Chinese media, accusing this American military research laboratory of being the source of Covid-19, without providing proof.
In France also, The world was able to see on YouTube that this search revealed murky videos, in French, published by CGTN, a television channel controlled by Beijing, and intended for an international audience. These contents even occupied the first three places of this search.
According to the American researchers, certain more neutral keywords, such as “Xinjiang”, the region where the persecuted Uyghur minority is concentrated, brought up fewer articles and videos from Chinese media – enough, however, to find, most of them. time, at least one of the top ten results. The prevalence of this suspicious content was lower on Google and Bing than on Google News and Bing News, the news aggregators of these same companies, or on YouTube.
Content produced at high frequency
In France, The world found that a CGTN video titled “What I see in Xinjiang is totally different from what I hear” appeared in third position on YouTube when the keyword “Xinjiang” was typed. Content likely to influence at least two types of audience: people who do not pay attention to the sources they consult, and those who have little confidence in French media.
According to the American researchers, this very high positioning in the search engines is explained by the very high frequency with which this content is produced by the Chinese media. Google and Microsoft, the publisher of Bing, give more space to the freshest content. Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, justified itself in the columns of the Washington Post, ensuring ” work to combat influence and censorship operations, while protecting access to information and freedom of expression ».
Brookings researchers suggest the platforms several solutions to counter the problem. Among other things, alerting users when the quality of content is suspect, or labeling government information agencies more clearly. However, the latter are not the only channels of Chinese disinformation. As the study points out, the content is relayed by media established in other countries, such as theHelsinki Timesor theIndian Express.
Beijing is reaping here the fruit of a strategy whose milestones were laid down many years ago, with the constitution of a network of foreign affiliated media, the Belt and Road News Network, and with the training of thousands of foreign journalists. on its territory. ” A new world media order must be created, otherwise the place will be taken by others, which will challenge our dominant role in shaping public opinion. “explained, in 2013, Li Congjun, former head of the official Xinhua agency and member of the central committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
An internal CCP leadership document, known as “Document No. 9,” attributed to Xi Jinping himself, warned of several dangers, including “ the Western idea of journalism that challenges the Chinese principle that media and publishing should be subject to Party discipline ».
In this vast operation of information control, the action of the affiliated media is coordinated with that of other relays – content farms operating on social networks, publishing houses, think tanks, influencers and sympathetic academics – who hammer messages shaped by Beijing. In some countries like Taiwan, a local office even directs these psychological warfare operations.
Methods very inspired by those of Russia, a friendly country with which certain disinformation operations are coordinated. The effectiveness of these joint operations could however have fallen following the war in Ukraine, Russia having seen itself deprived of a branch of its force of disinformation, with the prohibition in Europe of several official media, such as RT and Sputnik.