The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), an Australian think tank, is reporting that China is using private marketing agencies to hire English-speaking YouTube influencers to promote pre-made videos insinuating that Covid-19 originated in North America. According to a report by The Strategist:
February 8, 2022 Beijing’s quest to promote positive images of China overseas blurs the distinction between publicity and propaganda. Government departments contract private companies to funnel disinformation on Western social media and co-opt influencers alongside their legitimate public-relations activities. Consequently, the country’s cultural industry is financially incentivised to follow a broader ideological agenda while being strangled by censorship and regulation on sensitive issues. On 6 September 2021, a representative from a Hong Kong–based marketing agency, Pear Technology (梨科技), emailed more than 100 English-speaking YouTube influencers, mostly based in the US, offering cash to post promotional videos about Hainan, an island province of the People’s Republic of China. Accidentally, one of the recipients was the shared business email account of YouTube content creators and Chinese Communist Party critics Winston Sterzel and Matthew Tye. After some initial correspondence, the representative offered Sterzel and Tye a new deal. They had another ‘client’ that could pay US$2,000 to promote a pre-made video insinuating that Covid-19 originated in North America and spread via white-tailed deer. […] A Pear Technology representative confirmed that the mysterious client was likely affiliated with the Chinese government but said they didn’t ‘really know who [their] client is and which department [they’re] from’. They said Pear Technology was a ‘freshly established start-up company’ and that its ‘development team does not really sample through [their] clients as [they] just want to make money’. Government personnel were also known to ‘email out to various digital marketing agencies with their needs and see if any of them would take this case’.
Read the rest here.
The report notes that the video referred to above suggests Covid-19 may have originated from the US instead of Wuhan because a US government study had detected Covid-19 antibodies in samples collected from deers in early 2020. However, the video omits that the same study explains the single sample was likely a false positive due to testing error – first reported by Chinese media but later removed.