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Chinese Agents Spread Messages That Sowed Virus Panic in U.S., Officials Say

Chinese Agents Spread Messages That Sowed Virus Panic in U.S. ...

Six federal agency officials, speaking anonymously, blamed China for a wave of coronavirus-related misinformation that flooded the text messages and social media accounts of Americans as the pandemic took off.

The campaign started in January, with fake reports that virus was created in an Army lab, that it thrives on ibuprofen, and that vitamin C or garlic water can kill it. It was in full force by mid-March, with alarming pop-ups about looting, rioting, and lockdowns. While the posts often cited an unnamed government or university source, the American officials said the messages were actually the work of Chinese agents seeking to widen the political divide in America.

Their theory is backed by independent, bipartisan research groups — including the Center for a New American Security, which is slated to release a related report in May. Whether it created the messages or simply amplified them, the agency sources say the discovery of China’s interference is prompting a closer look into the new ways that rival nations are manipulating various platforms to spread disinformation during the pandemic. China, for its part, denies that it is disseminating misinformation and anti-American conspiracy theories about COVID-19.

It turns the microscope back on the United States, calling out President Trump for repeatedly referring to the “Chinese virus” and blasting suggestions circulated by Republicans that the virus may have been developed as a Chinese bioweapon.

source: New York Times

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