The US authorities said that thousands associated with Russian accounts on social networks to spread alarming reports about Chinese coronavirus, AFP reports.
The U.S. state Department Philip Ricker said that the Russian disinformation campaign promoting baseless conspiracy theories about the US involvement in the outbreak of coronavirus. In particular, we are talking about claims that COVID-19 — biological weapons developed by the CIA, and the spread of the virus is an attempt by the U.S. “engaged in an economic war with China.”
According to Ricker, Russia intends “to sow discord and to destroy American institutions and unions from within.”
“Spreading misinformation about the coronavirus, the Russian intruders decide to endanger public safety, diverting attention from global health care”,— he said.
According to Ricker, fake accounts to promote Russian campaign appeared on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and several foreign languages.
The disinformation campaign was discovered by the American observers in mid-January after Chinese officials announced a third death from new coronavirus. Several thousand online accounts was identified, as developed in Russia specifically for the reporting of such important events as the war in Syria, the protests of “Yellow jackets” in France and the mass demonstrations in Chile. They are now published almost identical reports of a new coronavirus, says the report, prepared for the Center for global engagement the State Department and reviewed by the AFP.
Accounts are run by people, not bots, messages are published at the same time in English, Spanish, Italian, German and French. These accounts can be associated with Russian proxies or transfer of similar messages in the Russian-supported resources, such as RT and Sputnik.
The Russian media, state-financed, began to spread anti-Western messages on the causes of the epidemic on January 20. The next day, the account operators of social networks began to publish similar reports worldwide, say US officials.
Leah Gabriel, the head of the Global Engagement Center, which is tasked with tracking down and exposing the propaganda and disinformation said: “Now we can see the misinformation, including on state television, the sites also have thousands of fake personalities on social networks, promoting the same themes.”
During many events of global significance these accounts actively posted information for 72 hours after the event. But reports of a new coronavirus are downloaded every day in the last month. By all indications, Russia wants to this story soon disappeared from the headlines.
“The number of cases of coronavirus in the world has reached its climax, therefore, the Russian strategy is to cheap, but very effective use of the information environment, to sow differences between us and China for economic purposes”. said another official from the Global Engagement Center.
Experts have drawn Parallels with previous conspiracy theories, coming from Moscow, including a disinformation campaign the KGB in 1980-ies, which convinced many around the world that American scientists created the HIV virus that causes AIDS.
Us intelligence also said that Russia intervened through the manipulation of social networks in the 2016 elections and trying to do it again in 2020. The Kremlin denied the accusations, and President Donald trump ridiculed the offers of help.
The United States believes that the last Russian campaign of disinformation makes it difficult to fight the epidemic, especially in Africa and Asia. The locals start to believe in the involvement of the West to the problem.
On Friday, February 21, the world health organization warned about the growth of cases of infection with coronavirus without clear ties with China.
The spokesman said: “it Seems that Russian operatives gave “carte Blanche” to destroy the reputation of the United States. Regardless of whether the purpose of the specific misinformation at the highest levels or not, but the fact that they will try to inflict maximum damage with far-reaching consequences.”