The authorities of China reportedly paid trolls to manipulate social media discourse on COVID-19, confidential directives made to local propaganda workers, and new outlets revealed on Sunday. According to a report published by the New York Times and ProPublica, Chinese officials worked extensively to suppress “Inconvenient news” concerning the novel corona virus.
China directed paid trolls to flood social media with party-line talks and deployed security forces to censor unsanctioned voices. The report states that Chinese officials had ordered not to notify the readers regarding the death of Dr. Li Wenliang, who had initially warned about the outbreak, but the Chinese government did not pay heed to it, resulting in the unchecked spread of the deadly virus across the world.
When Wenliang died of COVID-19, the officials instructed social platforms to gradually remove the doctor’s name from trending topics pages and activated a host of fake online commenters to flood social sites with distancing content.
The report mentioned that at a time when; digital media is dividing Western democracies, China is manipulating online discourse to enforce the ideas; and beliefs of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CPP).
The document containing directives clearly depicts China’s effort; to control the dissemination of information online, which requires enormous bureaucracy, armies of people, specialized technology; made by private contractors, and constant monitoring of digital news outlets and social media platforms, the report said.
Though China has been strongly criticised by the United States and other countries for trying to cover up the extent of the outbreak in its early stages, these documents indicate that the CCP tried to control the COVID-19 narrative to underplay the severity of the virus and make the authorities appear more responsible.
Several Chinese news outlets were also instructed not to display reports; on foreign donations and overseas purchases of medical supplies; as they can disrupt the country’s procurement efforts. One directive said, “Avoid giving the false impression that our fight against the epidemic relics on foreign donations.”
The report states that Chinese President Xi Jinping created the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) in 2014 to censorship and propaganda as well as other aspects of digital policy. It also informs that the government departments; of CCP have a variety of specialized software available to shape what people see on online platforms.
The reports also mentioned that CAC ordered offices; to start purging internal reports, related to COVID-19 after some; confidential public-opinion analysis reports surfaced online. China has been widely criticised across the world; for its alleged role in the spread of the novel corona virus that has infected; over 75 million people and killed 1.6 million people worldwide.