China defends use of social networking platforms amid allegations of spreading disinformation

WION Web Team
Beijing, China Published: Feb 18, 2021, 05:48 PM(IST)

China's President Xi Jinping Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Earlier, an investigative report found that powerful political figures and allied media in China, as well as the US, Russia and Iran, flooded the globe with disinformation about the virus

China on Thursday defended its use of social networking platforms Twitter and Facebook following a report that it had used its growing media presence to spread disinformation about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When asked about the report, the Foreign Ministry's top spokesperson, Hua Chunying, didn't directly address the allegations about China's role in spreading virus disinformation. However, she called the report ''exaggerated'' and said China should have the right to use social media too.

Also read-Misinformation and shifting blame: How China has lost out on the debate over coronavirus

Earlier, an investigative report in collaboration with the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, found that powerful political figures and allied media in China, as well as the US, Russia and Iran, flooded the globe with disinformation about the virus.

The report, published earlier this week, said that Chinese officials went on the offensive in reaction to a narrative nursed by former US President Donald Trump among others that the virus had been manufactured by China. Experts have largely ruled out that possibility.

Hua, asked about the report at a daily Foreign Ministry briefing, said that some people in Western countries, such as the US don't want to hear China's objective and true voice.

"They are afraid that more people will learn the truth, so that they can no longer spread false information unscrupulously and do whatever they want to mislead and monopolize international public opinion," she said.

China's response, though, was to start spreading rumours that the virus had been created by a US military lab and released during an international competition for military athletes in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the new coronavirus was first detected in late 2019.

The search for the origins of the virus has become highly politicised. Trump sought to pin the blame on China, in part to deflect criticism of his administration's response to the pandemic in the United States.

China, in turn, has played up reports that the virus was circulating outside of the country before the outbreak in Wuhan, suggesting it may have been brought in from elsewhere.

Determining where the virus started is likely to take years of research and may never be known. Most scientists say the most likely scenario is it was first carried by bats in southwest China or neighbouring Southeast Asia, and then spread to another animal before infecting humans.

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