Confidential instructions from Chinese authorities to local propaganda workers and new outlets revealed that officials were paying trolls to manipulate social media discourse about Covid-19, according to a report.
Chinese officials have worked hard to suppress “inconvenient news” about Covid-19, according to the report.
In the report by the New York Times and ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative editorial team, Chinese authorities ordered paid trolls to flood social media with party-line gossip and used security guards to silence unauthorized voices.
These Chinese officials had ordered no notifications to be sent to alert readers to the death of Li Wenliang, the doctor who warned of the outbreak and who later died of Covid-19. These officials also directed social platforms to gradually remove the doctor’s name from trending topic pages and activated legions of fake online commentators to flood social websites with distracting chatter.
A special guideline for news websites and social media platforms states: “… do not use push notifications, do not publish comments, do not encourage speculation. Safely control the zeal in online discussions, do not create hashtags, step by step remove the trend. ” Subjects, strictly control harmful information. “
The report mentioned that at a time when digital media was deepening divisions in Western democracies, China was manipulating online discourse to enforce the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) consensus.
The documents clearly show China’s efforts to keep a tight grip on information dissemination. It requires enormous red tape, armies of people, specialized technology from private contractors, constant surveillance of digital news agencies, and social media platforms, according to the report.
Although China was beaten up by the US and other countries for trying to hide the scale of the outbreak in its early stages, these documents suggest that Chinese officials were trying to steer the Covid-19 narrative to get the virus make the virus appear less severe and make authorities look more capable.
Several news outlets in China have also been ordered not to display reports of overseas donations and purchases of medical supplies as this may disrupt China’s procurement efforts.
“Avoid the false impression that our fight against the epidemic is based on foreign donations,” said a directive.
In the report, Chinese President Xi Jinping was credited with creating the Cyberspace Administration of China in 2014 to centralize the management of Internet censorship and propaganda, as well as other aspects of digital politics.
Dr. Li’s death showed the dire cost of the Chinese government’s instinct to suppress inconvenient information, as noted in the New York Times report.
After the death of Dr. Li was leaked on Weibo, China’s Twitter-equivalent platform, a gag order from the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) that fueled anger among the people. Although the agency allowed people to express remarks, a policy warned that any report attempting to raise awareness in order to generate online traffic should be treated “strictly”.
In addition, the report said that government departments in China have a variety of specialized software to shape what the public sees on online platforms.
According to an analysis of computer code and documents from one such software, Urun, the company’s products can track online trends, coordinate censorship activities, and manage fake social media accounts to post comments.
The report also said that CAC ordered offices to delete internal reports, particularly sentiment surrounding the novel coronavirus, after some confidential public opinion analysis reports were posted online.
China has been criticized worldwide for its alleged role in spreading the novel coronavirus, which has infected over 75 million people worldwide. More than 1.6 million people have died from the virus.
While some blame it as an accomplice, others believe it to be guilty of spreading it.
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)