Monitored Russian accounts tweeted 17,095 times from October 26 to November 1, receiving 185,704 retweets and 555,136 likes.
Russian propagandists posted more than 1,400 tweets mentioning “Putin” last week after the Russian president gave a winding speech filled with anti-Western and anti-LGBTQ content. In the speech, Putin argued that the West was playing a “dangerous, bloody, and dirty game” and using Ukraine as a “battering ram” against Russia. He insisted that Russia created Ukraine and could be the only guarantor of its sovereignty. Putin also warned that the world is facing its most dangerous decade since World War II. He blamed the US-led international system for “multiplying chaos every day” and pronounced that a new world order was beginning to take shape, which “must be free, distinctive and fair.” Putin went on to criticize the West for accepting “trendy ideas like dozens of genders or gay pride parades.” He also attacked “cancel culture,” arguing that it “is eradicating everything that is alive and creative.” The Kremlin praised Putin’s speech, saying it will be “read and reread.” The Russian-intelligence directed site NewsFront said that Putin’s commentary was “appreciated” in China. State media and diplomats retweeted right-wing commentators in the United States who quoted Putin. Sputnik host George Galloway amplified a post that asked, “Putin spoke for over 3 hours today at Valdai forum. How many minutes do you think Joe Biden can read from [a] teleprompter before collapsing?”
“Grain deal” was the fourth most used phrase by Russian media and diplomatic accounts on Twitter last week as the Kremlin temporarily pulled out of the UN-brokered agreement to safely ship Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea. Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Ukrainian “terrorists, controlled by British special forces,” killed the deal by launching a drone attack on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Zakharova added that the attack was meant to “complement nuclear blackmail with a grain ransom.” An RIA Novosti op-ed argued that the United Kingdom had created “a formal pretext for war” with Russia by helping Ukraine with the drone attack and blowing up the Nord Stream pipelines. The Nord Stream claim rests on an unsubstantiated tweet from controversial internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom. Kremlin-backed media also complained that Europe had abused the grain deal, with one site arguing that “Europe sells Ukrainian grain to itself—and sanctions the rest to hunger.” Meanwhile, those accounts said that Russia was drawing up a plan to “provide poorer nations with grain from its own stocks.”
The election of Lula da Silva in Brazil prompted a significant amount of content from Russian media and officials. “Lula” was one of the ten most used key phrases on Twitter by Moscow-affiliated accounts. State media showed crowds celebrating Lula’s election and shared quotes from his victory speech. One Sputnik host retweeted a post that said Lula had “dislodge[d] the fascist right.” RT en Español highlighted world leaders congratulating Lula and took the unusual step of directly retweeting Argentina’s Vice President Cristina Kirchner, who thanked Lula for “restoring joy and hope to our South America.” Diplomatic accounts shared Putin’s congratulations. Propagandists also praised Lula for his anticipated support for BRICS—an economic group that includes both Brazil and Russia—and claimed he wouldn’t back the West’s defense of Ukraine. State media also warned that Lula’s challenger and Brazil’s current president Jair Bolsonaro could stage a coup and showed his supporters blocking roads and calling for military intervention.
Elon Musk’s account was the most mentioned account by Russian propagandists last week. After Musk bought Twitter, multiple state media personalities and officials called for him to drop restrictions on state-affiliated accounts. Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor-in-chief, asked Musk to “unban RT and Sputnik accounts and take the shadow ban off mine as well.” RT contributor Rachael Belvins tweeted, “For the love of this platform, release the journalists from the shadow bans.” When Musk said he would be forming a content moderation council, Sputnik host George Galloway replied, “Hire me.” Galloway also claimed that his follower count rose after Musk took over the platform.
Monitored Chinese accounts tweeted 16,325 times from October 26 to November 1, receiving 101,262 retweets and 548,003 likes.
Several Chinese diplomatic and state media accounts on Twitter also addressed Elon Musk in the run-up to and following his acquisition of the social media platform. Last week, the US billionaire’s account was the seventh most mentioned account by Chinese accounts monitored on Hamilton 2.0. When excluding mentions of other monitored Chinese accounts, @elonmusk was the second most mentioned account by Chinese diplomats and state media last week.
Several diplomats commented on the acquisition or replied directly to tweets from Musk. A Pakistan-based cultural counselor asked whether Musk would reinstate previously banned accounts. The deputy consul general in Auckland wondered whether Twitter would stop labeling Chinese state media content. And the Consul in Kolkata reacted to Musk’s praise of WeChat, China’s “super-app” with a history of censorship.
Chinese state media was also very interested in the acquisition’s consequences. While outlets like China Daily and Global Times focused on the internal turmoil following the change of ownership, state media personalities addressed Musk directly. Chen Weihua, the head of China Daily’s EU bureau chief, asked Musk to “remove all those McCarthyist discriminatory policy [sic] on Chinese accounts including mine.” A prominent CGTN commentator shared a meme making fun of the layoffs at Twitter, and another CGTN personality praised the billionaire’s use of memes.
Russia was the third most mentioned country in tweets by Chinese diplomats and state media last week, behind only China and the United States. Diplomats like Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying, the vocal consul general in Belfast, and the Chinese Mission to the EU relayed Xi Jinping’s congratulatory note to Putin for the 65th anniversary of Russia-China ties. The former ambassador to the United Kingdom and the ambassador to ASEAN promoted various exchanges between diplomats from both countries, insisting on a shared willingness to work together “at all levels” and “in various fields.” The Russian language branch of CGTN relayed the Kremlin’s accusations that the British were behind the Nord Stream sabotage and the former editor-in-chief of Global Times mused whether Moscow had it in them to counterattack. Finally, Chinese state media sent rather contradictory signals regarding the grain deal, with CGTN Africa quoting Ukrainian and US officials accusing Russia of instrumentalizing food but CGTN America promoting an openly anti-Western analyst who laid blame on the West.
Brazil was the fourth most mentioned country in tweets by Chinese diplomats and state media last week. The Chinese Embassy in Brazil’s message of congratulations to President-elect Lula was the second most liked tweet posted by an account monitored on Hamilton 2.0 since January 2021. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) echoed those congratulations, while several other accounts, including Hua Chunying, People’s Daily, and Xinhua relayed Xi Jinping’s congratulatory message to Lula. Chen Weihua boasted that the Brazilian leader followed him on Twitter and said that he hoped that Bernie Sanders would replicate Lula’s success in 2024.
South Korea was the fifth most mentioned country in tweets by Chinese diplomats and state media last week. In addition, Seoul was the ninth most mentioned key phrase in those tweets. The most watched Chinese state media video of the month on YouTube showed the deadly crowd surge in Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood. While almost all video and Twitter coverage factually reported on the tragedy, former Global Times editor Hu Xijin used the disaster to fault “the security loopholes in S.Korea’s modernization.”
Despite all the international coverage provided by Chinese diplomats and state media, the overall messaging out of those entities remained inward-looking. Nine of the ten most frequently used key phrases and hashtags in tweets by Chinese account monitored on Hamilton 2.0 were in one way or another related to China. The most used key phrase was “Communist Party of China,” and the most used hashtag was #XiJinping. Apart from news related to China’s space program and the occasional tweet related to China’s humiliation at the hands of colonial powers, most of this more domestically driven messaging generated too little engagement to appear in the rankings of top performing content. However, it remains a large portion of China’s day-to-day messaging.
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