US media is reporting that a document used by close associates of US President Trump to promulgate a conspiracy theory about presidential candidate Joe Biden was produced by a fake intelligence firm. According to the NBC News report:
October 29, 2020, One month before a purported leak of files from Hunter Biden’s laptop, a fake “intelligence” document about him went viral on the right-wing internet, asserting an elaborate conspiracy theory involving former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and business in China. The document, a 64-page composition that was later disseminated by close associates of President Donald Trump, appears to be the work of a fake “intelligence firm” called Typhoon Investigations, according to researchers and public documents.The author of the document, a self-identified Swiss security analyst named Martin Aspen, is a fabricated identity, according to analysis by disinformation researchers, who also concluded that Aspen’s profile picture was created with an artificial intelligence face generator. The intelligence firm that Aspen lists as his previous employer said that no one by that name had ever worked for the company and that no one by that name lives in Switzerland, according to public records and social media searches. One of the original posters of the document, a blogger and professor named Christopher Balding, took credit for writing parts of it when asked about it and said Aspen does not exist. Despite the document’s questionable authorship and anonymous sourcing, its claims that Hunter Biden has a problematic connection to the Communist Party of China have been used by people who oppose the Chinese government, as well as by far-right influencers, to baselessly accuse candidate Joe Biden of being beholden to the Chinese government.
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The report goes on to note how content from the fake document spread throughout the Internet:
Blog posts highlighting the most salacious parts of the document, including articles from the Intelligence Quarterly Blog, Revolver News and Balding’s blog, received 70, 000 public interactions — which includes reactions, comments and shares — across Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, according to the social media analysis tool BuzzSumo. Balding’s blog was the primary driver of virality in conservative and conspiracy communities. The report itself was shared across Facebook and Twitter around 5,000 times, according to BuzzSumo, and more than 80 sites linked back to the blog, which was shared more than 25, 000 times on Facebook and Twitter. Hyperpartisan and conspiracy sites like ZeroHedge and WorldNetDaily led the pack. After the promise of a big reveal one day earlier, the document was also posted on the extremist forum 8kun by Q, the anonymous account behind the QAnon conspiracy theory movement. On Twitter, the document was pushed by influencers in the QAnon community, as well as by Dinggang Wang, an anti-Chinese government YouTube personality who works for Guo Wengui, a billionaire who fled China amid accusations of bribery and other crimes. Republican Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, tweeted the document to his 2. 3 million followers.
The Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported last month that US intelligence agencies had warned the White House late last year that Russian intelligence officers were using President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani as a means to transmit disinformation aimed at undermining the presidential campaign of Democratic candidate Joe Biden