Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc claimed on Wednesday that it had deactivated accounts used by a Chinese-based influence operation that supported statements made by a bogus “Swiss biologist” claiming the US was interfering in the research for Covid-19’s origins. The fake scientist posted a conspiracy theory on Facebook in July, claiming that the US was attempting to intimidate WHO into blaming China for the outbreak.
In July, Chinese official media frequently cited claims made by “Swiss scientist” Wilson Edwards. After the Swiss embassy in Beijing declared it had discovered no evidence of his being a Swiss citizen, various Chinese publications removed comments and stories mentioning him in August.
As part of its investigation, Facebook also said that it disabled Wilson Edwards account in August and has subsequently deleted 524 Facebook profiles, 20 Pages, four Groups, and 86 Instagram accounts. The content that these entities have posted is likewise taken down as a result of these actions.
The account’s owners, according to Meta, used virtual private network (VPN) infrastructure to hide the account’s origin and tried to give Edwards a well-rounded personality. According to Meta, the persona’s original post was shared and liked by phony Facebook accounts before being forwarded by genuine users, the majority of whom were workers of Chinese state infrastructure businesses in over 20 countries.
Meanwhile, the account’s establishment was tracked to Sichuan Silence Information Technology, a firm in central China, according to Facebook. Silence, according to its website, was created in 2000 and provides a wide variety of information security services, including to China’s Ministry of Public Security. An email sent to the company’s website’s email address was returned as undeliverable and a request for comment from the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. was not immediately returned.
China has been aggressive in spreading the message that the pandemic is not their fault, despite denying WHO experts access to Wuhan to further probe the outbreak’s roots. Several pro-China coordinated efforts have emerged on the internet, including one that wrongly blames the lobster trade for the coronavirus’s origins.