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.
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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.