Huawei Attempts To Rebuild Trust By Using... Fake Twitter Telecom Experts

from the not-helping dept

So we've noted that a lot of the accusations that Huawei spies on Americans on behalf of the US government are lacking in the evidence department. The company's been on the receiving end of a global blocklist based on accusations that have never actually been proven publicly, levied by a country (the United States) with a long, long history of doing exactly what it accuses Huawei of doing. While scrutiny of Chinese gear is certainly warranted, at the same time it's a rather idiotic rabbit hole filled with xenophobic politicians being played by US companies that like to drum up NatSec hysteria for political advantage.

That of course doesn't mean Huawei, like so many telecom giants, isn't a terrible company that routinely makes unethical decisions. Like when the company was busted helping several different African governments to spy on political opponents and journalists. Or when it was shown to be eagerly helping China build facial identification systems to quickly identify Uighur Muslims. Or, more recently, when the company was busted creating entirely fake people in a ham-fisted bid to try and boost its reputation.

Last week, the company was busted for creating at least fourteen different Twitter accounts pretending to be respected telecommunications experts, writers, and assorted academics. Their goal, to cast doubt on Belgian legislation attempting to limit "high risk" vendors from building the nation's 5G networks. The bogus, pro-Huawei accounts used computer generated profile pictures. Their Tweets were then amplified by official, and real, Huawei executives:

"Kevin Liu, Huawei’s president for public affairs and communications in Western Europe, who has a verified Twitter account with 1.1 million followers, shared 60 posts from the fake accounts over three weeks in December, according to Graphika. Huawei’s official account in Europe, with more than five million followers, did so 47 times."

To be clear, creating fake people to generate fake support for various policy proposals certainly isn't unique. US companies do it fairly routinely to generate fake buzz and shape the discourse on social media platforms. Fake people were used to applaud the FCC's repeal of net neutrality at the telecom industry's behest just a few years back. Chinese Pro-Trump media outlet, The Epoch Times, was also busted using bogus people to push conspiracy theories the last few years.

It's quite the blossoming little business sector. One recent report out of Oxford identified 63 examples in which public relations firms were involved in online disinformation operations in 2020 for government or corporate clients. In this case, Twitter took down the fourteen fake accounts immediately after being notified by the New York Times. Graphika, the company that first unearthed the astroturf effort, connected the dots after it noticed that several accounts used in previous campaigns began sharing pro-Huawei arguments and attacking Belgium's regulatory approach.

A common practice or not, it's monumentally idiotic to think that the best way to show you're trustworthy as an international telecom vendor is to create fake people to make your case for you. Then, apparently, assume you were being so clever that nobody would ever discover the charade. But again, much like spying on your own citizens at the behalf of government, it's something companies like AT&T also engage in, which undermines any serious attempt by the US to hold the moral high ground.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: china, fake experts, trust
Companies: huawei


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread


  • icon
    crade (profile), 5 Feb 2021 @ 7:04am

    "US companies do it fairly routinely to generate fake buzz and shape the discourse on social media platforms"

    I don't think they generally go the extra mile and create actual faces for their fake people and take pictures of them though.

    In my opinion this sort of thing should be considered some form of fraud

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2021 @ 10:19am

      Re:

      Perhaps not, though I've never really looked into their social media campaigns.

      US companies do, however, take information from data breaches to steal and use the identity of real people during their campaigns.

      That seems slightly more like fraud than some stock photos, but maybe that's just me.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 5 Feb 2021 @ 11:10am

      Re:

      maybe not, but.
      Not to long ago they could show up with Bags of mail, and show that all of those people who wrote in, Wanted This or that.

      The big part of this, is TRYING to have a list of every person in the USA, and Where they ARE, where they live,work, and just about everything else. In a file to Use to confirm Identity.
      But even at that, you cant prove if they wrote a letter, wrote a Email, called the congress or state reps, and DID ANYTHING, without contacting them Personally, and verify them with DOT pictures.
      How far do you want to go with that?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        crade (profile), 5 Feb 2021 @ 11:34am

        Re: Re:

        I remember when they did that, there were little blue fairies and unicorns there it was awesome.. Too bad no one took any pictures.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 5 Feb 2021 @ 11:34am

        Re: Re:

        there is a discontinuity in our gov.
        They ARNT the smartest people, so you would think they would Ask or Hire those that know abit more then they do. Or even create an agency that would handle all this, and Maybe explain a few things you Dont know.
        But for some reason, we have gotten Rid of those people/agencies/ and soforth.
        These folks are so smart they aint even asked the people that Hired them, what we want them to do.
        The Corps know More about the citizens then our gov does. And the corps created a few things, I dont know IF the gov. has made copies of.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2021 @ 7:44am

    First paragraph;
    "..spies on Americans on behalf of the US government.."
    Sounds like something that shouldn't cause much of a fuss ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 5 Feb 2021 @ 7:52am

      Re:

      Edward Snowden would like to have a word with you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2021 @ 10:37am

      Re:

      I'm pretty sure it's meant to say on behalf of the Chinese government, given the history and the fact that the US government is the outfit making these claims all the time.

      But if both the things in this part of the article were true, i'd say that the gov has turned a leaf and taking some personal responsibility finally.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2021 @ 7:47am

    Surprise, surprise. Techdirt managed both the whataboutism card and rrrracism card in the first paragraph. It’ll be interesting to see how much prevarication and many logical fallacies they can manage in the rest of the piece.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Koby (profile), 5 Feb 2021 @ 9:27am

    A common practice or not, it's monumentally idiotic to think that the best way to show you're trustworthy as an international telecom vendor is to create fake people to make your case for you.

    I view it similarly to a laugh track for a t.v. sitcom. It works, as long as noone can see plain as day that it's fake. It would have worked to improve their image as being trustworthy, except that they got caught.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      crade (profile), 5 Feb 2021 @ 9:47am

      Re:

      everyone can and does plainly see that a laugh track on a sit com is fake and it still works. laugh tracks work for the same reason that fiction works in general. The audience aren't being deceived, they are playing along.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 5 Feb 2021 @ 9:31am

    Should have hired former Trump trade advisor and expert on China, Ron Vara to aid them in their social media effort.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2021 @ 10:37am

    But these entirely fake people got their diplomas from only the best universities! Like University of Farmingham or the University of Northern New Jersey.

    They were recognized early for their excellent SAT scores (which, to be honest, they only needed more practice to score well on.)

    And when they aren't working for Huawei, some of these good folks are working for the US government!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2021 @ 11:37am

    Huawei doesn't spy on Americans.

    Said whilst the CEO's computer actually (seriously) pumps every single byte of data to CCP analysis warehouses in Bejing via unremoveable spyware that Huawei knows about but won't defy their masters in removing it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 9 Feb 2021 @ 2:41am

      Re:

      "...via unremoveable spyware that Huawei knows about but won't defy their masters in removing it."

      I guess that's why that 18 month security audit performed by US security services came up blank looking at Huawei machinery, right? Because the spyware is invisible?

      There are indeed serious issues about a corporation which allows full access to whatever user data it possesses to it's government - and both the US and China are equally culpable in that regard. That, otoh, isn't the fault of Huawei, Moto, Google, Apple, or any other OEM or backbone provider who has had their respective government pull the eminent domain card over unfettered access to the raw data.

      There's nothing special in a Huawei router or phone you won't also find in an iPhone, Samsung or Moto. Save for one thing. Huawei offers the same functionality at a cheaper price than US companies. This whole mess is just pure protectionism over the fact that Uncle Sam found himself outcompeted by the Yellow Devil when it came to hardware quality and price.

      So who actually does the spying no matter which manufacturer your phone has? Your local telco. Your ISP. Your Google, facebook, and/or Apple account. And they all do it because the government of the nation they're working in - whether the US or China - have told them to fork over the data or get out.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    getmyoffer (profile), 7 Feb 2021 @ 11:16pm

    Getmyoffer.capitalone.com | Enter Reservation Number and Access

    Thanks for sharing nice post
    https://getmyoffer.today/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    elinathomas (profile), 8 Feb 2021 @ 3:19am

    Facebook Telefoonnummer

    As a Facebook account holder, it is always important to protect your account from any kind of damage or unknown activity. But how it is possible to do that is the frequently asked question among the users and the simple answer is to change the password. It is always recommended to change a Facebook account password once a month or week to provide reliable protection for your privacy and security. You can easily change your Facebook account password on a variety of devices, including iPhone.https://technischeondersteuning.wordpress.com/2021/02/08/hoe-verander-ik-het-wachtwoord-van-m ijn-facebook-account-op-de-iphone/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
.

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.