Facebook owner Meta Platforms has removed more than 500 accounts linked to an online disinformation network based primarily in China.
The accounts had promoted the claims of a bogus Swiss biologist named “Wilson Edwards,” who alleged that the United States was meddling in efforts to find the origins of Covid-19.
Edwards’ comments were widely covered by Chinese state media.
However, the Swiss embassy said this person is unlikely to exist.
Meta said in its report that the social media campaign was “largely unsuccessful” and targeted English-speaking audiences in the United States and Britain and Chinese-speaking audiences in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Tibet.
In early July, an account posing as a Swiss biologist named Wilson Edwards had made statements on Facebook and Twitter that the United States was pressuring scientists at the World Health Organization who were studying the origins of Covid-19. . in an attempt to blame the virus. in China.
State media, including CGTN, Shanghai Daily and Global Times, had quoted the so-called biologist based on his Facebook profile.
The Sichuan Silence Information website describes the company as a network and information security company that provides technical support to the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and CNCERT, the key team coordinating China’s cybersecurity emergency response.
Facebook said it had removed a total of 524 Facebook accounts, 20 pages, four groups and 86 Instagram accounts after reviewing public reports that focused on the fake Swiss biologist.
The person’s original post was initially shared and liked by fake Facebook accounts, then forwarded by genuine users, most of whom belonged to employees of Chinese state-owned infrastructure companies in more than 20 countries, Meta said.
He added that the operation used the Virtual Personal Network (VPN) infrastructure to hide its origin and give Edwards a more complete personality. He also said that his profile photo also appeared to have been generated using machine learning capabilities.
Research into the origins of Covid-19 has been a source of tension between the US, China, and other countries, as the source of the virus remains murky nearly two years after it was first discovered.