China-based networks spread online disinformation campaign on Covid origins, says Facebook

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Dec 02, 2021, 08:42 PM(IST)

The claims of the fake Swiss biologist was widely carried by Chinese state media outlets like the Global Times and People's Daily, Meta said in its yearly adversarial threat report. Photograph:( Agencies )

Story highlights

According to a report by Meta, the accounts had promoted the claims of a fake Swiss biologist called “Wilson Edwards”, who claimed that the US was meddling in efforts to find the origins of COVID-19

Meta Platform has said that Chinese-based networks were involved in elaborate online propaganda this year to promote claims of a fake Swiss biologist to spread disinformation on the origins of COVID-19.

According to a report by Meta, the Facebook accounts connected to Chinese information campaigns had promoted the claims of a fake Swiss biologist called “Wilson Edwards”, who claimed that the US was meddling in efforts to find the origins of COVID-19.

Facebook said it had removed a total of 524 Facebook accounts, 20 pages, four groups and 86 Instagram accounts after reviewing public reports that centred around the fake Swiss biologist.

The claims were widely carried by Chinese state media outlets like the Global Times and People's Daily, CGTN, Meta said in its yearly adversarial threat report.

Meta in its report said the social media campaign, which was “largely unsuccessful,” targeted English-speaking audiences in the United States and Britain and Chinese-speaking audiences in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Tibet.

Both Twitter and Facebook are banned in China, but Beijing frequently uses both US social networks to promote its positions on the international stage.

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“Our investigation uncovered that almost the entire initial spread of the “Wilson Edwards” story on our platform was inauthentic — the work of a multi-pronged, largely unsuccessful influence operation that originated in China,” Meta said.

The company in its November said that there was a network of accounts amplifying the fake news, many of which were inauthentic, “but some were real and belonged to employees of Chinese state infrastructure companies including employees of Sichuan Silence Information Technology Co Ltd... and individuals associated with Chinese state infrastructure companies based around the world."

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Meta said the campaign used Virtual Personal Network (VPN) infrastructure to conceal its origin, and to give Edwards a more rounded personality. It also said that his profile photo also appeared to have been generated using machine-learning capabilities.

The Swiss embassy has also recently denied the existence of Edwards, reports BCC.

It added "there was no registry of a Swiss citizen with the name "Wilson Edwards" and no academic articles under the name", and urged Chinese media outlets to take down any mention of him.

(With inputs from agencies)

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