Yong Liu’s correspondence address, Applegate House, in Stratford
Applegate House, the correspondence address in Stratford, London, for Yong Liu, the Chinese national officially listed as director of London New Europe Media. Image: Alexander Martin / The Record

Meta: Chinese disinformation network was behind London front company recruiting content creators

A Chinese disinformation network operating fictitious employee personas across the internet used a front company in London to recruit content creators and translators around the world, according to Meta.

In a report published Wednesday, Meta revealed it had removed more than 100 accounts on Facebook and dozens on Instagram connected to the operation targeting “multiple internet services,” including almost all of the major social media platforms.

The operation used a company called London New Europe Media, registered to an address on the upmarket Kensington High Street, that attempted to recruit real people to help it produce content. It is not clear how many people it ultimately recruited.

London New Europe Media also “tried to engage individuals to record English-language videos scripted by the network,” in one case leading to a recording criticizing the United States being posted on YouTube, said Meta.

While the actual operators of this network attempted to conceal their identities, Meta said its investigation had "found links to individuals in China associated with Xi'an Tainwendian Network Technology, an information technology company."

The London operation created fake personas impersonating companies and institutions in the U.S. and EU, initially making posts mimicking the entity before switching to publishing negative commentary about Uyghur activists and critics of the Chinese state.

One of the fictitious personas the network had created even managed to partner with a nongovernmental organization in Uganda that featured the persona’s logo at one of its events, said Meta.

The posts were mainly written in English, Russian, Uyghur and Chinese and included content about geopolitics in Central Asia. Meta said around 15,500 accounts had been following one or more of the group's pages on Facebook.

According to the government's Companies House registration information, the London New Europe Media “front company” was incorporated in August 2021 and is directed by a 51-year-old Chinese national called Yong Liu.

The Record didn’t receive a response when pressing the buzzer for Liu’s correspondence address at Applegate House in Stratford. Land registry information revealed it was a rental property and not owned by Liu.

London New Europe Media’s office address on Kensington High Street. Image: Alexander Martin / The Record

The address for London New Europe Media’s registered office on Kensington High Street led to a small door sandwiched between an upmarket travel agency and a charity shop.

While The Record’s attempts to buzz the office went similarly unanswered, a solicitor’s office in the same building explained that the space was leased to a companies formation agent called Company Wizard which, as a professional service, handles the correspondence for businesses that were not actually based at that location.

Company Wizard confirmed to The Record that London New Europe Media was one of its clients, but it was unable to provide a statement beyond saying that it complied with all anti-money laundering duties involved in company formation.

The Record understands that police officers have also made enquiries of Company Wizard regarding London New Europe Media. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Service did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

The report follows a warning last August from cybersecurity firm Mandiant revealing that dozens of apparently independent news sites operating in the U.S., Europe, Asia and elsewhere were actually part of a propaganda effort to “disseminate content strategically aligned with the political interests of the People’s Republic of China.”

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Alexander Martin

Alexander Martin

is the UK Editor for Recorded Future News. He was previously a technology reporter for Sky News and is also a fellow at the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.