US accuses China and Russia of Covid-19 propaganda attacks
The US on Friday accused China and Russia of spreading propaganda over the pandemic. “Even before the Covid-19 crisis we assessed a certain level of coordination between Russia and [China] in the realm of propaganda,” Lea Gabrielle, coordinator of the US state department’s Global Engagement Center, which tracks foreign propaganda, told a briefing. However, she later said US monitoring had observed “a convergence of narratives” rather than China and Russia actively working together. “How active that coordination is government to government is not something that we can currently assess.” Ms Gabrielle said similar messaging by both the onetime Communist allies “has accelerated rapidly” since the pandemic. “We see this convergence as a result of what we consider to be pragmatism between the two actors who want to shape public understanding of the Covid pandemic for their own purposes.” As an example, she said Beijing- and Moscow-backed social media accounts “recirculate false narratives about US-funded biolabs in the former Soviet Union”. Ms Gabrielle said the US had noted increasing social media activity by China. Citing German Marshall Fund data, she said “Twitter accounts linked to the Chinese embassies, consulates and ambassadors have increased by more than 250 per cent since the start of the Hong Kong anti-government protests” in March 2019. “Many Chinese diplomatic Twitter accounts experienced a major surge in the number of new followers since March, and that matches the timeframe in which Beijing’s overseas messaging effort kicked into high gear around Covid,” Ms Gabrielle said. “Now throughout the … pandemic, several organisations have reported on bot networks promoting [pro-Chinese Communist party] narratives,” she added.