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Campus protests give Russia, China and Iran fuel to exploit American division| GuyWhoKnowsThings

An article in a fake online media outlet that Meta has linked to Russian information operations attributed the clashes that unfolded on American college campuses to the failures of the Biden administration. A newspaper controlled by China's Communist Party said the police crackdown exposed “double standards and hypocrisy” in the United States when it comes to free speech.

On X, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, Nasser Kanaani, posted a cartoon of police arresting a young protester dressed as the Statue of Liberty. “Imprisonment of #freedom in the United States,” he wrote.

As protests over the war in Gaza have spread across the United States, Russia, China and Iran have exploited them to score geopolitical points abroad and stoke tensions within the United States, according to researchers who have identified both overt and covered up by countries. to amplify the protests since they began.

There is little evidence – at least so far – that countries have provided material or organizational support to the protests, in the same way that Russia involuntarily recruited Black Lives Matter protesters organize rallies before the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.

However, campaigns have portrayed the United States as a country in the throes of social and political upheaval. In the past two weeks alone, state media in Russia, China and Iran have produced nearly 400 English-language articles about the protests, according to NewsGuard, an organization that tracks online misinformation. Countries have also unleashed a wave of content through inauthentic accounts or bots on social media platforms such as X and Telegram or websites created, in the case of Russia, to imitate Western news organizations.

“It's a wound that our adversaries will try to rub salt on because they can,” said Darren Linvill, director of the Media Forensics Hub at Clemson University, which has identified campaigns from all three countries. “The more we fight among ourselves, the easier life becomes for them and the more they can get away with things.”

Researchers are concerned that some foreign influence operations are also pivoting toward the November presidential election, seeking inflame partisan tensions, denigrate democracy and promote isolationism. The three adversaries have unleashed a deluge of propaganda and misinformation since the war on Gaza began in October, seeking to undermine Israel and, as its main ally, the United States, while expressing support for Hamas or the Palestinians in general.

The campus protests, which have gained momentum in recent weeks, have allowed them to shift their propaganda to focus on the Biden administration's strong support for Israel, arguing that it has undermined its international standing without reflecting popular sentiment at home.

“The Biden administration's policies are complicating the situation within the country,” says the article on TruthGate, one of the few websites that's what goal said last year They were created by a Russian information operation known as Doppelgänger to spread propaganda under the guise of an American media outlet, he said Wednesday. “In the rush to help our controversial allies, they have completely forgotten about internal affairs. Now the situation seems irreparable.”

The influence efforts have been tracked by researchers at Clemson and NewsGuard, as well as the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and Recorded Future, an online research company.

A covert Chinese influence campaign known as Spamouflage, which was first linked to an arm of the Ministry of Public Security in 2019, has also focused its attention on the protests. Some posts on X claimed that the United States was “SHOWING TOTALITARISM.” Similar language, such as “how can there be such tough police officers in the world” and “expulsion, arrest, repression!” – resonated in several accounts identified by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a research organization in Washington focused on national security.

Max Lesser, a senior analyst at the foundation, described the “high volume” of content related to the protests as “a clear example of a foreign adversary actively exploiting an ongoing domestic crisis.”

Many of the accounts linked to Spamouflage share similar content. One on His profile photo was a picture of Winter, the South Korean pop singer. It listed its location as the United States, but it was typically published during Asia daytime, while its content frequently included grammatical errors.

Another account on camps.” ” in the city's universities.

Investigators, however, have not detected a direct effort to organize protests or provoke violence. The goal, rather, has been to highlight the divisions that the war in Gaza has exposed in American public opinion, and the potential effect that has on government policy.

Recorded Future analyst Brian Liston said that in the case of Russia, the campaign “was attempting to stoke tensions on both sides of the protest argument,” alternately praising protesters and denouncing them as anti-Semitic.

In many cases, campaigns simply amplify the feelings expressed by protesters and their supporters. Chen Weihua, an outspoken editor and columnist for The China Daily, the official state-run English newspaper, has recently republished messages about X from people like Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate, and Cynthia Nixon, the “Sex” actress. in the city.”

For China, scenes of American police officers in riot gear arresting young protesters have particular resonance given the harsh criticism the communist government faced from the United States and other democracies when his security forces clashed with protesters In Hong Kong for months in 2019 over the revocation of political freedoms that the government had promised to preserve in the former British colony.

“When Hong Kong students destroyed schools, blocked roads, and threw gasoline bombs, the United States told the Hong Kong government to exercise restraint and not disrupt reasonable demonstrations,” an account linked to Spamouflage stated. “Now, in front of American students, the police take direct action and arrest them!”

Melanie Smith, research director at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a research organization that studies disinformation, polarization and online extremism, said China's efforts have become noticeably more aggressive toward the Biden administration.

Your organization and others have previously identified an incipient effort to undermine President Biden's re-election prospects. That effort has included the creation of fake accounts posing as Americans critical of Biden's policies.

“Their content talks relatively aggressively about how young people are unlikely to vote for Biden because this is an issue,” Smith said of the Chinese response to the protests.

Bret Schafer, a senior researcher at the German Marshall Fund who studies information manipulation, said China, Russia and Iran had different motivations for getting involved. However, they all benefited from highlighting narratives that damage global perceptions of the United States. Iran's state media, which has long supported Hamas, has published more about the protests than Russia or China and has amplified criticism of the police response by American commentators such as Jackson Hinklehe said.

The emphasis on protests follows similar efforts to criticize the $95.3 billion. foreign aid package for Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine that Congress approved and Biden signed last month.

The Information Epidemiology Laboratory, a research group which studies malign influence campaigns, stated that the Russian information operation Doppelgänger published content critical of the aid package or focused on the political debate around it. The goal is to present the United States as an unreliable global ally: some publications claimed that it had abandoned Israel.

Instead, the publications suggested, Israel and other countries should seek new partnerships with Russia and China. Another series of posts shared an article from a website disguised as Fox News, which claimed that former President Donald J. Trump would “stop the looting of the US budget.”

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