SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 8 (Reuters) – A misinformation campaign on social media in support of Chinese government interests has expanded to new languages and platforms, and it even tried to get people to show up to protests in the United States, researchers said on Wednesday.
Experts at security company FireEye (FEYE.O) and Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) Google said the operation was identified in 2019 as running hundreds of accounts in English and Chinese aimed at discrediting the Hong Kong democracy movement. The effort has broadened its mission and spread from Twitter (TWTR.N), Facebook(FB.O) and Google to thousands of handles on dozens of sites around the world.
This expansion suggests Chinese interests have made a deeper commitment to the sort of international propaganda techniques Russia has used for several years, experts said.
Some of the new accounts are on networks used predominantly in countries that have not previously been significant Chinese propaganda targets, such as Argentina. Other networks have users around the world but with a large proportion in Russia or Germany.
False information about COVID-19 has been a major focus. For example, accounts on social networking sites vKontakte, LiveJournal and elsewhere in Russian, German, Spanish and other languages have asserted that the novel coronavirus emerged in the United States before China and that it was developed by the U.S. military.
Multiple Russian-language LiveJournal accounts used identical wording: “U.S. Ft. Detrick was the source of COVID-19,” referring to the U.S. Army’s Fort Detrick installation in Maryland.
In addition to promoting false information on the virus, researchers said priorities for the group include criticizing fugitive Chinese propagandist Guo Wengui and his ally, former Donald Trump strategist…