A wave of poorly written Kindle titles about Pelosi, Taiwan, hits Amazon’s Kindle platform — Radio Free Asia

Amazon’s Kindle electronic publishing platform has been inundated with poorly written books pushing the line from Beijing to Taiwan, according to a UK-based publisher.

A wave of e-books using the keywords “Nancy Pelosi” and “China and Taiwan” exposing China’s claim to the Democratic Island have appeared on Kindle since earlier this month, when the Speaker of the United States House United, Nancy Pelosi, has indicated for the first time that she will travel to Taiwan. , triggering days of military exercises by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

“New disinformation campaign on Amazon? British freelance publisher Michael Cannings tweeted, along with a screenshot of the Kindle titles.

“A torrent of shoddy new ‘books’ on Taiwan has appeared; a quick Google shows that at least some of the content is plagiarized, and the authors’ names appear to be wrong. I count 61 under a single term of research,” Cannings wrote.

He then told RFA that it was unclear whether the flood of new titles, many of which contain grammatical errors and consist of scraped content with wording changed to evade plagiarism software, was a propaganda campaign. state-sponsored or simply the work of unethical people trying to profit from global headlines.

“The possibilities of using this for misinformation are strong,” Cannings said. “I just can’t be sure if in this case it’s really someone trying to do this, or if it’s just unethical people trying to make money.”

“[But] it shows how it could be done by a state operation,” he added.

Cannings said the use of keywords and the flood of recent titles means the books appear at the top of Amazon and Google searches for those keywords.

He said most of the titles were likely uploaded to Amazon’s Kindle Desktop Publishing platform and, except for automated plagiarism checks, were not subject to any editorial quality checks.

“I think the danger for readers is that you don’t know what’s real and what’s not,” Cannings said. “I mean, some of these books don’t look great, but some of them are pretty compelling, so a reader who isn’t familiar with the subject matter might not know it’s not …properly studied.”

“The secondary danger is that these books are then cited by people further down the line…then the misinformation enters the larger ecosystem,” he said.

Freelance UK publisher Michael Cannings brought Kindle titles to the fore in a series of tweets on Twitter.

Vulnerable to misinformation campaigns

RFA was able to roughly replicate Cannings’ search results on Amazon and found that the e-books were selling for around $10 or less.

Amazon told RFA in an email response that the company has content guidelines for self-published books on the Kindle platform, and will investigate and remove books that don’t meet them.

Daniel Kapellmann Zafra, senior technical analysis manager at cybersecurity firm Mandiant, said that whether or not the flood of books on Taiwan from Beijing’s perspective is backed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the platform -forme is vulnerable to misinformation campaigns.

“As long as there is a platform for sharing information, it can be leveraged to drive these types of narratives,” Zafra told RFA. “It’s basically a creative avenue that could … allow an actor to share information.”

Zafra’s own research for Mandiant identified an information operations campaign linked to Chinese PR firm Shanghai Haixun Technology, with content posted on at least 72 allegedly inauthentic news sites.

“The narratives promoted by the campaign criticize the United States and its allies, attempt to reshape Xinjiang’s international image due to increasing international scrutiny, and express support for reform of Hong Kong’s electoral system – a change that gave [China] more power over the selection of local candidates,” says the report, co-authored by Zafra.

Several of the sites published articles criticizing Pelosi on August 1, in response to reports ahead of his August 2-3 visit to Taiwan, he said.

“The articles claim that Pelosi should ‘stay away from Taiwan’ and highlight the perceived tarnished relationship between the United States and Taiwan.”

An article published on several sites, including one claiming to be a Taiwanese news outlet, claimed that former US government official Mike Pompeo’s visit to Taiwan in March 2022 was motivated by money and his alleged desire to run for office. US presidency in 2024, according to the report. .

A separate information operation, DRAGONBRIDGE, posts comments, videos and photos to thousands of social media accounts and forums on genuine platforms, according to the report.

Shanghai Haixun uses inauthentic websites to deliver content, with little obvious overlap between the two, he said.

“Cognitive Operations”

Taiwanese fact-checkers said they detected a 30-40 increase in false reports online since Pelosi’s visit.

Maj. Gen. Chen Yu-lin, deputy director of Taiwan’s National Defense Ministry’s Political and War Bureau, told reporters Aug. 8 that China had launched a wave of “cognitive operations” even before the announcement of military exercises.

Chen said the Hybrid Warfare campaign sought to create an atmosphere suggesting China might invade Taiwan, attack the government’s public image and disrupt civilian and military morale.

Hybrid warfare refers to a combination of conventional military actions on the ground and hacking or disinformation campaigns designed to attack public morale and cause confusion.

National Taiwan University has been hacked, with the words “there is only one China in this world” appearing on its official website.

Meanwhile, the National Palace Museum released a statement denying online rumors that the government was preparing to send tens of thousands of rare artifacts overseas for safekeeping.

Last week, several convenience store branches and government facilities across Taiwan had their digital signage hacked with messages slandering Pelosi.

Digital signage at a train station in the southern port city of Kaohsiung and at a Nantou County government office also displayed a message calling Pelosi an “old witch”.

The official website of Tsai’s presidential office was taken down for about 20 minutes by a cyberattack, after which full service was restored, while the mainland Chinese website Baidu joined in the cognitive warfare, publishing for the first Times Maps of Taiwan, which went viral after social media users noticed that many streets in cities across Taiwan are named after cities in mainland China.

Chinese officials and pro-CCP commentators have launched a global media offensive around Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, claiming that the island, which was never ruled by the CCP or part of the People’s Republic of China, 73 years old, is an “inseparable” part of Chinese territory.

CCP leader Xi Jinping has repeatedly said Taiwan must be “unified” with China and refused to rule out the use of military force to annex the island.

But Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who won re-election in a landslide in 2020 after vowing to stand up to China on the issue, said Taiwan’s 23 million people were unwilling to give up. to their sovereignty, a view that is confirmed. through repeated opinion polls.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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