Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Disinformation pushed world into lockdowns (2)

China’s Global Lockdown Propaganda Campaign | The Tablet - Michael P. Senger: 

September 15, 2020 - "On March 9, Italy, the first major European country to sign onto Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, took the WHO’s advice and became the first country outside China to lock down. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had long advocated closer ties with China. Chinese experts arrived in Italy on March 12 and two days later advised a tighter lockdown.... On March 19, they repeated that Italy’s lockdown was 'not strict enough,' saying: 'Here in Milan, the hardest hit area by COVID-19, there isn't a very strict lockdown ... We need every citizen to be involved in the fight of COVID-19 and follow this policy.' Italy was simultaneously bombarded with Chinese disinformation. From March 11 to 23, roughly 46% of tweets with the hashtag #forzaCinaeItalia (Go China, go Italy) and 37% of those with the hashtag #grazieCina (thank you China) came from bots.

"While analysts typically focus on finding as many inauthentic accounts as possible, the purpose of the following discussion is different — using simple investigatory methods to evince the intent behind Beijing’s disinformation, which appears to be far more insidious than analysts have recognized. Social media and analytics companies generally only detect obvious automated activity, while fake, personally managed accounts can be created with ease. This works out well for the CCP, which has always preferred the human touch.

"On March 12, Twitter user @manisha_kataki posted a video showing Chinese workers disinfecting streets, apparently admiring China’s strategy: 'At this rate, China will be back in action very soon, may be much faster than the world expects.' As The New York Times’ Paul Mozur noted, this tweet was not shocking, funny, or newsworthy, yet it was shared hundreds of thousands of times. This caught the attention of Israeli company Next Dim, which flagged the activity as likely state-sponsored.... Twitter responded to Mozur’s article by deleting 170,000 accounts, but at the time of this writing many of the suspect accounts are still active, and a search for hundreds of similar examples can be easily repeated with one click.... 

"As more countries shut down, some suspicious online activity took a darker turn. When South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem famously refused to issue a statewide lockdown, suspicious accounts began filling her Twitter feed with abuse and graphic language to pressure her to do so. Upon closer examination, two of the accounts hurl similar abuse at governors thousands of miles apart.... When Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, the first governor to end his state’s lockdown, honored late Rep. John Lewis, his Twitter feed was stormed with conspicuous, vulgar language that often invoked his anti-lockdown stance.

"Sweden’s skepticism toward the CCP predates COVID-19. In January, Beijing threatened Swedish trade ties over an award given to Gui Minhai, a Swedish publisher detained in China. Sweden did not back down and later refused to follow China’s lockdown model, opting for a herd immunity strategy. Thus, Sweden became a prime target of a Chinese campaign portraying it as weak against the COVID threat. In the words of China’s state-run Global Times:

Chinese analysts and netizens doubt herd immunity and called it a violation of human rights, citing high mortality in the country compared to other Northern European countries. “So-called human rights, democracy, freedom are heading in the wrong direction in Sweden, and countries that are extremely irresponsible do not deserve to be China's friend …”

"Initially, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also opted for herd immunity. But on March 13, suspicious accounts began storming his Twitter feed and likening his plan to genocide. This language almost never appears in Johnson’s feed before March 12, and several of the accounts were hardly active before then. Britain locked down on March 23."

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Also read: 

Disinformation pushed world into lockdowns (1)

Disinformation pushed world into lockdowns (3) 

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