US media is reporting that The Epoch Times, a media operation associated with the Chinese Falun Gong movement, appears to be connected to several new social media websites spreading disinformation aimed at supporting the US rightwing. According to the New York Times report:
March 9, 2021 Youmaker, a little-known video site, prominently featured a video alleging that a far-left extremist movement was plotting to destroy America. On Sagebook, a Twitter-like social network filled with posts from right-leaning users, a sidebar of trending topics contained the hashtags for “Stop the Steal,” “Censorship” and “Facebook.” And Right on Times, an obscure right-wing news aggregator, recently promoted favorable articles about Republican officials who refused to recognize Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the 2020 election. All three are among about a dozen websites spreading misleading information with ties to the Epoch Media Group, a news organization that has become a top purveyor of conspiracy theories and political misinformation, according to data provided by the research group Advance Democracy and analyzed by Global Disinformation Index, a nonprofit that studies disinformation. Youmaker hosts the videos on The Epoch Times website. Sagebook was recently used to run The Epoch Times’s comments system. When Right on Times launched a few months ago, numerous Epoch employees promoted the site on their social media feeds, and Right on Times ran many articles from Epoch properties. Researchers found that the other sites have digital fingerprints, like advertising identification tags, that match those used by Epoch Media properties.
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The article notes that while Youmaker discloses its partnership with the Epoch Media Group, The Epoch Times’ parent company, the others do not:
The Global Disinformation Index, a nonprofit research group, found the ties among the sites by analyzing their hosting records, website analytics and advertiser identifiers. Right on Times does not disclose any partnership with Epoch, nor do the two websites share a unique digital identifier. But when it launched in October, its articles were posted on social media by Epoch employees. Right on Times also had a prominent ad campaign on Epoch properties, and it included many articles from Epoch properties on its service. Those actions led disinformation researchers, including those at the Global Disinformation Index, to conclude there was coordination.
The Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported in October 2020 that The Epoch Times had spread a number of pro-Trump conspiracy theories as a part of its stated goal to take down the Chinese government. Other GIOR reporting on the Epoch Times has included:
- In November 2020, we recommended another New York Times article detailing how the Epoch Times has developed its influence operations.
- In October 2020, we reported that Facebook had removed many Falun Gong movement accounts from a digital media outlet linked to The Epoch Times.