Headline RoundupJune 14th, 2024

Military Spread COVID Disinformation to Counter Chinese Influence in Philippines

Summary from the AllSides News Team

A report from Reuters (Center bias) detailed a 2020 COVID-19 disinformation campaign conducted by the U.S. military to counter Chinese influence in the Philippines. 

For Context: Reuters’ investigation involved interviews with “more than two dozen current and former U.S. officials, military contractors, social media analysts and academic researchers. Reporters also reviewed Facebook, X and Instagram posts, technical data and documents about a set of fake social media accounts used by the U.S. military.”

Details: The U.S. military aimed to “counter what it perceived as China’s growing influence in the Philippines” by sowing doubt “about the safety and efficacy of vaccines and other life-saving aid that was being supplied by China.” The disinformation campaign was reportedly “payback for Beijing’s efforts to blame Washington for the pandemic.” Using X (formerly Twitter) account posing as Filipinos, the campaign spread messages critical of China centered around the slogan “China is the virus.” The report added, “Health experts say the gambit was indefensible and put innocent lives at risk.” The article quoted an unnamed senior military officer involved in the program stating, “We weren’t looking at this from a public health perspective. We were looking at how we could drag China through the mud.” One post from 2020 read, “COVID came from China and the VACCINE also came from China, don’t trust China.” 

How the Media Covered It: Outlets are covering the report mildly. Salon (Left bias) emphasized that the campaign was launched while former President Donald Trump was in office.

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