China defends use of Twitter, Facebook in COVID-19 campaign

BEIJING (AP) – The Chinese government on Thursday defended its use of Twitter and Facebook following a report that it uses its growing presence on social media to spread disinformation about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying did not respond directly to allegations about the country’s role in spreading disinformation about the virus. But he said the report was exaggerated and that China has the right to use social media.

An Associated Press investigation in collaboration with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Investigations Laboratory found that powerful political figures and media allies in both China and the United States, Russia and Iran flooded the globe with disinformation about the virus.

The report released days ago maintains that Chinese officials reacted against the version – fed by then-US President Donald Trump and others – that the virus had been manufactured in China, a possibility that most experts rule out.

Asked about the AP report in her daily briefing at the Foreign Ministry, Hua said that some in Western countries like the United States do not want to hear the objective and real voice of China.

« They fear that more people will know the truth so that they can no longer unscrupulously spread false information and do whatever they want to deceive and monopolize international public opinion, » he said.

The Chinese reaction consisted of spreading rumors that the virus had been created in a US military laboratory and released during an international competition of military athletes in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the new coronavirus was first detected in late 2019.

The search for the origins of the virus has become a political affair. Trump wanted to blame China, in part to deflect criticism of his government for the way it dealt with the pandemic in the United States.

In turn, China has released reports that the virus was circulating outside the country before the outbreak in Wuhan, hinting that it came from abroad.

Determining the origin of the virus will likely require years of research and may never be known. The most likely hypothesis, according to most scientists, is that it was transmitted by bats in southwest China or neighboring Southeast Asia to other animals, which in turn transmitted it to humans.