A user group of Chinese nationalists invaded the Facebook page of the World Uighur Congress (WUC) on Wednesday, blanketing it with nationalist messages, pledges of loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party, and justifications for the mass detention of Muslims in the re-education camps of Xinjiang province.
Chinese nationalists also bombarded a pro-Uighur website called Talk to East Turkestan in what the South China Morning Post described as a “coordinated attack.”
For several hours on Wednesday night, users of a Chinese forum called Diba “set up in 2004 by soccer fans that is now more associated with fomenting nationalist sentiment” hammered the targeted websites with “memes, pictures of people ‘living happily in Xinjiang,’ and messages from official brochures about the government’s anti-terrorism efforts in the region.” The attackers also made a concerted effort to downvote the targeted Facebook pages.
The SCMP monitored forum posts that indicated the action was planned long in advance, enabling the Diba troll army to post thousands of comments in a matter of hours. No actual hacking or cyber-espionage appears to have taken place, but rather a sustained effort to overload the pages with pro-China propaganda.
Organizer Yin Yuancheng said his objective was to “maintain national dignity, dispel rumors, and show the whole world the facts.”
“The messages and posts are not a result of careful consideration of the issue, but simply a brute-force effort to pledge thoughtless allegiance to the Communist Party,” countered World Uighur Congress project manager Peter Irwin.
The WUC summarized the attack in a Facebook post on Thursday, counting 3000 comments on a pinned post and hundreds of direct messages, some using “abusive language” and others “simply pasting Chinese Communist Party White Paper texts.” The WUC noticed that Chinese state-run media was “suspiciously quick” to report and praise the attack.