ChinaOctober 12 2021, 13:54 pm

China Exploits Search Engines To Push Covid-19 Disinformation

The Ger­man Mar­shall Fund (GMF), a US think tank, is report­ing that Chi­na is exploit­ing search engines to push con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about the ori­gins of Covid-19. Accord­ing to a GMF report:

Octo­ber 5, 2021 Since the ear­li­est days of the pan­dem­ic, Chi­nese state offi­cials and media out­lets have dis­sem­i­nat­ed con­spir­a­cy nar­ra­tives claim­ing that COVID-19 orig­i­nat­ed at Fort Detrick—a U.S. army research facil­i­ty in Mary­land that has been the tar­get of dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns for more than four decades. But Chi­nese efforts to pump con­spir­a­cy nar­ra­tives about the lab into the infor­ma­tion blood­stream have accel­er­at­ed in recent months in response the Biden administration’s renewed inter­est in the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the virus leaked from China’s Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy. Accord­ing to data col­lect­ed on ASD’s Hamil­ton 2.0 dash­board, Chi­nese gov­ern­ment offi­cials and state media out­lets have post­ed more than 1,000 tweets, arti­cles, and videos about Fort Det­rick since May, flood­ing social media plat­forms with elab­o­rate con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries that have been thor­ough­ly debunked—and thus large­ly ignored—by cred­i­ble media out­lets.  The ampli­fi­ca­tion of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries by Chi­nese state media and offi­cials is not in itself remark­able, and Fort Det­rick is far from Beijing’s only tar­get of dis­in­for­ma­tion nar­ra­tives about the ori­gins of the virus. What is remark­able about the Fort Det­rick nar­ra­tives is their foothold in pow­er­ful, influ­en­tial places: search engines.  For peo­ple encoun­ter­ing the world of Fort Det­rick con­spir­a­cies for the first time, turn­ing to a search engine would be a com­mon step in the search for infor­ma­tion. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, pop­u­lar search engines could lead con­sumers direct­ly to the very sources of Fort Det­rick con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries. In August and Sep­tem­ber, Google News results for “Fort Det­rick” were dom­i­nat­ed by CGTN and the Glob­al Times, two Chi­nese state-run out­lets that are cen­tral to Beijing’s infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions. In late August, the fre­quen­cy and vol­ume of mis­lead­ing sto­ries about Fort Det­rick reached enough of a peak to also dom­i­nate Google’s Top Sto­ries fea­ture. Search­es on Bing News have not fared much bet­ter, with Glob­al Times and Chi­na Dai­ly appear­ing in top results.

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