WSJ: China Floods Facebook and Twitter with Chinese Virus Disinformation

Chinese President Xi Jinping, centre, talks with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, right, as Lu Wei, left, China's Internet czar, looks on at Microsoft's main campus in 2015
TED S. WARREN/AFP

In a recent article, the Wall Street Journal outlines how China has begun spreading viral messages in an attempt to shape the narrative of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. The communist country’s state-run media outlets have been allowed by Twitter and Facebook to flood their platforms with posts disparaging American efforts to stop the Chinese virus pandemic, as well as posting misinformation about the Wuhan coronavirus itself.

The Wall Street Journal writes in an article titled “China Pushes Viral Messages to Shape Coronavirus Narrative,” that China has been purchasing ads on U.S. social media sites adopting online tactics similar to Russian disinformation campaigns in an attempt to shape the international narrative about the coronavirus response.

Breitbart News recently reported that Chinese state media has been posting undisclosed political ads to Facebook and Instagram in an attempt to downplay China’s role in the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic and blaming President Donald Trump. Three Chinese state media outlets, Xinhua, China Central Television, and the Global Times, have targeted ads towards users across the world in English, Chinese, and Arabic.

The ads have reportedly been seen millions of times and extol China’s efforts to fight the coronavirus while downplaying the countries domestic outbreak. The articles portray President Trump as misguided and racist and suggest that the virus may have originated in the United States. “[China] has taken stringent and forceful measures, and turned the tide on coronavirus,” said one ad. Another states: “Trump’s disruption to China has severe consequences.”

All of the ads initially ran without a political disclaimer which allowed them to hide information about who the ads were targeting and where they originated from. Several of the articles focused on President Trump’s use of the term “Chinese virus” to describe the coronavirus while others highlighted statements from Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Now, the WSJ states that China has further increased its propaganda efforts, writing:

The efforts include ad purchases on Facebook Inc. promoting the English-language arms of Chinese state-media outlets, as well as posts there and on Twitter Inc.’s platform that in some cases disparage U.S. efforts to fight the global pandemic, the researchers say.

From mid-February until early March, social-media sites linked to Chinese state media posted more than 3,300 times a day, triple the normal rate, according to Recorded Future, a Somerville, Mass.-based cybersecurity consulting firm. Those outlets were principally active on Facebook and Twitter, the research showed.

 

The WSJ  spoke with Vanessa Molter, a researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory, who outlined how China was spreading disinformation:

 

As recently as Sunday, China Plus News, an English-language website operated by state-run China Radio International, was running ads promoting a podcast entitled “Coronavirus: What’s Really Going On.” The podcast, which began airing regular episodes on March 8, features information and opinions on the coronavirus pandemic, offered from China’s perspective.

In one episode, the podcast states that none of the 42,000 medical workers operating in Hubei Province to combat the pandemic was infected with the virus. That health claim contradicts The Wall Street Journal’s reporting, which found medical workers in China were infected because they lacked proper gear and training.

Read the full report at the Wall Street Journal here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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