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Facebook Takes Down Chinese Network Spreading Covid-19 Falsehoods

December 20th, 2021 15:34

UK media is report­ing that Face­book has removed a net­work of accounts involved in a Chi­nese influ­ence oper­a­tion spread­ing Covid-19 false­hoods, includ­ing pro­mot­ing claims of a fake “Swiss biol­o­gist.” Accord­ing to a Reuters report:

Decem­ber 1, 2021 Face­book own­er Meta Plat­forms Inc (FB.O) said on Wednes­day it had removed accounts used by an influ­ence oper­a­tion orig­i­nat­ing in Chi­na that pro­mot­ed claims of a fake “Swiss biol­o­gist” say­ing the Unit­ed States was inter­fer­ing in the search for COVID-19’s ori­gins.  Meta said in a report the social media cam­paign was “large­ly unsuc­cess­ful” and tar­get­ed Eng­lish-speak­ing audi­ences in the Unit­ed States and Britain and Chi­nese-speak­ing audi­ences in Tai­wan, Hong Kong and Tibet.  Claims by “Swiss biol­o­gist” Wil­son Edwards were wide­ly quot­ed by Chi­nese state media in July. In August, sev­er­al Chi­nese news­pa­pers removed com­ments and delet­ed arti­cles quot­ing him after the Swiss embassy in Bei­jing said it had found no evi­dence of him as a Swiss citizen.

Read the rest here.

Accord­ing to a detailed report pub­lished by Facebook/Meta, the Chi­na-linked dis­in­for­ma­tion net­work includ­ed 524 Face­book accounts, 20 Pages, four Groups, and 86 Insta­gram accounts involved in set­ting up and ampli­fy­ing the account of a fake “Swiss biol­o­gist” called Wil­son Edwards. Accord­ing to the Facebook/Meta report, there have been clear links between the dis­in­for­ma­tion net­work and a Chi­nese infor­ma­tion secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny, as well as Chi­nese gov­ern­ment officials:

Novem­ber 2021 Although the peo­ple behind this net­work attempt­ed to con­ceal their iden­ti­ties and coor­di­na­tion, our inves­ti­ga­tion found links to indi­vid­u­als in main­land Chi­na, includ­ing employ­ees of Sichuan Silence Infor­ma­tion Tech­nol­o­gy Co, Ltd (an infor­ma­tion secu­ri­ty firm) and indi­vid­u­als asso­ci­at­ed with Chi­nese state infra­struc­ture com­pa­nies locat­ed around the world. This is the first time we have observed an oper­a­tion that includ­ed a coor­di­nat­ed clus­ter of state employ­ees to ampli­fy itself in this way. Final­ly, and sep­a­rate­ly from these clus­ters, our inves­ti­ga­tion also found that a num­ber of  Chi­nese gov­ern­ment offi­cials began inter­act­ing with the oper­a­tion’s con­tent less than an hour after it first post­ed, and up to 12 hours before the ampli­fi­ca­tion clus­ters began lik­ing and shar­ing it.

Read the full report here.

In August, we report­ed that the Swiss Embassy in Bei­jing denounced claims by Chi­nese media refer­ring to the non-exis­tent Wil­son Edwards, ask­ing Chi­na to take down what the Embassy called “false” articles.