How Chinese Police Track Critics on Twitter and Facebook

The Chinese government, which has built an extensive digital infrastructure and security apparatus to control dissent on its own platforms, is going to even greater lengths to extend its internet dragnet to unmask and silence those who criticize the country on Twitter, Facebook and other international social media. From a report: These new investigations, targeting sites blocked inside China, are relying on sophisticated technological methods to expand the reach of Chinese authorities and the list of targets, according to a New York Times examination of government procurement documents and legal records, as well as interviews with one government contractor and six people pressured by the police. To hunt people, security forces use advanced investigation software, public records and databases to find all their personal information and international social media presence. The operations sometimes target those living beyond China's borders. Police officers are pursuing dissidents and minor critics like Ms. Chen, as well as Chinese people living overseas and even citizens of other nations. The digital manhunt represents the punitive side of the government's vast campaign to counter negative portrayals of China. In recent years, the Communist Party has raised bot armies, deployed diplomats and marshaled influencers to push its narratives and drown out criticism. The police have taken it a step further, hounding and silencing those who dare to talk back. With growing frequency, the authorities are harassing critics both inside and outside China, as well as threatening relatives, in an effort to get them to delete content deemed criminal. One video recording, provided by a Chinese student living in Australia, showed how the police in her hometown had summoned her father, called her with his phone and pushed her to remove her Twitter account.

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