On September 8, 2021 cybersecurity firm Mandiant and experts at Google reported that a pro-Chinese government misinformation campaign on COVID-19 was targeting U.S. citizens. While the information manipulation campaign was spread across 30 social media platforms, over 40 websites, and translated into 7 languages, the analysts believe that its main aim was to physically mobilize protestors in the United States. The campaign’s narratives, claiming for instance that COVID was engineered in Maryland research lab, mirrored similar claims by the Chinese government, leading U.S. officials to believe that the campaign was somehow connected to Beijing. In addition to spreading fallacies on COVID, the campaign also called on Asian-Americans to protest against racism in the United States. The operation was identified as following on from 2019 efforts to discredit Hong Kong protests in English and Chinese. John Hultquist, vice-president of intelligence analysis at FireEye, noted an improvement in the quality of video and subtitles. These improvements could point to long-term investment into information manipulation campaigns and into China’s ability to produce more convincing manipulations in the future.
Pro-China COVID-19 misinformation campaign targets United States