The Epoch Times’ Cathy He lays it out, as described by the State Department’s Global Engagement Center.
The U.S. State Department has discovered a “coordinated” bot campaign on Twitter designed to disseminate Chinese Communist Party (CCP) disinformation, forming part of Beijing’s campaign to deflect blame over its role in causing the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), which works to expose foreign disinformation efforts, recently identified thousands of “inauthentic” Twitter accounts used to help Chinese embassies and diplomats spread disinformation.
“The GEC has uncovered a new network of inauthentic Twitter accounts, which we assess were created with the intent to amplify Chinese propaganda and disinformation,” Lea Gabrielle, head of the GEC, said during a May 8 press briefing.
“It’s our assessment that this network could be deployed to allow the CCP to rapidly amplify and spread messages around the world, skewing the conversation to its benefit.”
Gabrielle said it was “highly probable” that the effort was linked to the CCP, which is currently “engaged in an aggressive information campaign to try and reshape the global narrative around COVID.” This campaign, she said, involves attempting to paint the regime “as a global leader in the response rather than the source of the pandemic.”
In recent months, Chinese diplomats have increasingly taken to Twitter—a platform banned in China—to laud the regime’s efforts in combating the pandemic, criticize other countries’ handling of the outbreak, and promote unfounded theories that the virus originated from outside of China, such as the United States.
In one case, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry shared a video that claimed that the Chinese national anthem was played in the streets when Chinese doctors arrived in Italy—which was later debunked as a fake, Gabrielle said. The video appeared to show Italians saying, “Thank you, China,” when, in fact, they were thanking their own health care workers.
“But PRC diplomats and party-state media changed the context of the video in Beijing’s favor and then shared it widely,” she said, adding that in this case, the video was amplified by Russian-linked social media accounts.
Analysis from the GEC showed a surge in new followers of Chinese diplomatic Twitter accounts from March—when the regime escalated its global disinformation push. New followers per day rose from a historical average of 30 per day to over 720 per day— a 22-fold increase, Gabrielle said. In addition, many of these followers were newly made accounts.