Google’s Threat Analysis Group has terminated tens of thousands of accounts linked to a group known as “Dragonbridge” or “Spamouflage Dragon” which spreads pro-China disinformation on several online platforms.
According to Google, Dragonbridge is obtaining new Google Accounts from account sellers in droves, and in some cases even switching to accounts previously used by financially motivated actors and repurposed to post disinformation videos and blogs.
Last year, the company removed more than 50,000 accounts used by Dragonbridge across its platforms, including YouTube, Blogger and AdSense. A total of 100,960 accounts have been closed since the influencer network was first spotted.
This reflects Google’s emphasis on this coordinated China-related information operation, described as “the TAG tracks of the most prolific IO players”.
Almost no engagement from real viewers
However, despite the Chinese influence operation’s large size and high volume of content production, it has minimum commitment to zero real viewers.
For example, the vast majority of its YouTube channels had zero subscribers when they were taken down last year, and more than 80% of videos had less than 100 views.
Dragonbridge blogs on Blogger also had very low engagement, with less than 10 views per post for nearly 95% of posts when they closed in December.
“Most of DRAGONBRIDGE’s activity is low-quality content with no political message, appearing on numerous channels and blogs. However, a small fraction of DRAGONBRIDGE’s accounts also post news information with messages that push pro opinions. -Chinese,” said Zak Butler and Jonas Taege of Google TAG. said.
“In 2022, the overwhelming majority of DRAGONBRIDGE content disrupted by Google never reached a real audience. Of the 53,177 channels we disabled in 2022, 58% had no subscribers and 42% of their videos did had zero views. 83% of these videos had less than 100 views.”
Signs of changing tactics
Despite its lack of engagement from genuine viewers, the pro-China disinformation operation is showing persistence and adaptability.
The group, which has been monitored by Google TAG analysts since 2019, has constantly changed tactics and experimented with new formats and higher quality content.
This shows that there is still a risk that the group’s activity will end up landing on the radars of real users, which would likely increase the overall impact of its content criticizing the United States and conveying pro-China messages.
“Despite its inability to gain traction with genuine audiences, DRAGONBRIDGE generates large volumes of content across multiple platforms, is persistent, and continues to experiment with its tactics and techniques,” Google added.
“That’s why we’ve stepped up our efforts to disrupt DRAGONBRIDGE’s coordinated inauthentic activity on our platforms.”