Experts warn about online disinformation campaign about China’s role in COVID-19 spread

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — Some officials say China is waging a massive disinformation campaign hoping to rewrite history about how the coronavirus pandemic started and China’s failure to stop the virus from spreading.

Some experts are warning Americans to be careful about what they read and share online.

“I think it’s very important to note a lot of misinformation out there targeted toward the American people,” said Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN), a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Carson wants Americans to be careful about COVID-19 information they see online.

“Foreign actors, state actors, Russia, China and others, have set up troll farms that deliberately spread misinformation to the American people,” he said.

And some foreign policy experts say China is attempting to re-shape its role in the pandemic.

“They are trying to push a specific narrative: China’s the good guy, China’s not the problem, and also at the same time, to deflect criticism on to other countries,” said Dean Cheng, Chinese policy expert with the Heritage Foundation.

Cheng, an expert on Chinese policy, says China’s own numbers, from its economy to coronavirus deaths, defy common sense. 

“Often, their claims are frankly outlandish, but people seem to want to believe it,” he said.

Cheng said China uses government operatives to spread disinformation on social media within China and doesn’t rule out those same agents are also posting online here in America.

“So I think it’s safe to say there are at least some lurking in our social media,” he said.

Since 2016, some companies have tried to stop the spread of online disinformation.

“I’m appreciative of YouTube for stepping up and tightening their search engine and their algorithm in terms of false information,” Carson said.

The U.S. Justice Department said last week it is also tracking disinformation campaigns by China as well as Russia.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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