The results of a recent investigation show that China plays a leading role in promoting the spread of conspiracy theories about Covid-19.
The Digital Legal Research Laboratory (DFRL) of the Atlantic Council research organization works with top officials and the media in four countries that are considered “super viral” of misinformation about Covid-19, including China, the US, Russia and Iran, for 9 months. The results of the investigation, based on an analysis of millions of social media articles and posts such as Twitter, Facebook, Weibo, WeChat, and YouTube, show that China leads the spread of misinformation about pandemic origins.
Beijing has been fighting for weeks with top Republican leaders, including former Vice President Donald Trump, who has always seen nCoV as the “Chinese virus”. Chinese diplomats are also active on the Western social media platform, having tripled the number of Twitter accounts and doubled the number of Facebook accounts since the end of 2019.
One day after the World Health Organization (WHO) identified Covid-19 as a pandemic, Zhao Lap Kien, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, published a series of late-night articles, starting a campaign to spread information. false.
“When was patient number 0 of the United States discovered?”, Trieu Lap Kien posted on Twitter on March 12, 2020. “How many people have been infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It is possible that American soldiers brought the pandemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make the data public. America owes us an explanation.”
What happened next showed the power of China’s global “information machine”. Twitter alone, 11 posts on March 12 and 13 were cited more than 99,000 times over the next six weeks, in at least 54 different languages, according to DFRL analysis.
The Global Times news site and at least 30 Chinese diplomatic accounts, from France to Panama, helped push for information from Mr. Zhao. The Venezuelan foreign minister and RT correspondent in Caracas, as well as accounts close to the Saudi royal family, also help spread the Chinese spokesperson’s information in Spanish and Arabic.
The hashtags popular in Trieu Lap Kien’s series were also viewed 314 million times on Chinese social networking platform Weibo. On the late night of March 13, Zhao posted Weibo, “Thank you for your support, let’s do our best together for the country”.
Ten days after Zhao’s first post, China’s “global media engine” began to take off.
“Is the US government deliberately hiding the truth about Covid-19 with seasonal flu?” Asked an essay on China Radio International in March 2020. “Why is the US Military Medical Research Institute on Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Maryland, the largest biochemical testing facility, closed in July 2019?”
In just a few days, different versions of this article appeared more than 350 times on Chinese state news sites, not only in Chinese but also in English, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Nha and Arab.
The Chinese Embassy in France also promoted this information on Twitter and Facebook. It also appeared on other platforms like YouTube, Weibo, WeChat, as well as Douyin, China’s TikTok network.
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China has always denied spreading the conspiracy theories about Covid-19. “We have never done this and will never do. Misinformation is a common enemy of humanity and China has always been against the creation and spread of them,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Father.
Thanh Tam (Follow SCMP)