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U.S. counterintelligence chief says China trying to recruit Americans through LinkedIn: Report

August 31, 2018

China is targeting Americans through LinkedIn with “super aggressive” tactics, U.S. counterintelligence chief William Evan warned in an interview with Reuters published Friday.

Mr. Evanina said law and intelligence officials have notified the business-oriented networking site that China is using the site to recruit American officials with access to sensitive information in both the federal and private sectors.

Part of the plan involves spamming thousands of users through fake accounts on LinkedIn at once, Mr. Evanina said. However, Reuters was not told how many of these recruiting accounts existed or if China had any success.

Paul Rockwell, head of trust and safety for LinkedIn, confirmed the company was informed about the Chinese threat. He told Reuters no more than 40 fake accounts had been removed for contacting others for unknown political groups, but would not confirm if they were associated with China.

China’s foreign ministry denied the accusation in a statement to Reuters.

“We do not know what evidence the relevant U.S. officials you cite have to reach this conclusion. What they say is complete nonsense and has ulterior motives,” the statement read.

Mr. Evanina said LinkedIn was a “victim” in this situation, but suggested it follow in the footsteps of Facebook and Twitter, both of which have been plagued by fake accounts and recently suspended hundreds of accounts tracing back to Iran and Russia.

On Thursday, Twitter announced that advertisers would have to verify their identity and location within the U.S. to promote “issue ads” on political, election or legislative topics.

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