Six US intelligence agencies confirmed Chinese operatives helped push viral, fraudulent text messages containing disinformation about the federal government’s response to to Wuhan coronavirus crisis, according to a new report from the New York Times.
The fake text messages, which were widely shared in mid-march, reported false information claiming the Trump administration was instituting a country-wide lockdown with the help of the National Guard.
“This is real, I just got this report. Homeland security is preparing to mobilize the national guard. Preparing to dispatch them across the US along with military. They will also call on first responders,” the text messages read. “They are preparing to announce a nationwide two week quarantine for all citizens. All businesses closed. Everyone at home.”
The messages were so widespread, the White House National Security Council put out a statement telling Americans the rumors were false.
“Text message rumors of a national quarantine are fake. There is no national lockdown. The CDC has and will continue to post the latest guidance on COVID-19,” the White House tweeted.
— NSC 45 Archived (@WHNSC45) March 16, 2020
Two U.S. intelligence officials told the New York Times they were unsure whether Chinese operatives created the lockdown messages or amplified existing ones. Officials are also examining whether Chinese diplomats were involved in spreading any of the fake messages. This examination comes after the State Department expelled two employees from the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. who were suspected of spying.
The officials said China, like Russia in 2016, is actively working to widen the political divisions in the United States.
Since the beginning of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has aggressively tried to push propaganda and false information about the source of the global pandemic. CCP officials hid critical information about the virus, silenced whistleblowers who tried to warn others of potential danger, and lied about the extent of the outbreak in China. Zhao Lijan, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, tweeted that the US Army was to blame, claiming US military officials brought the coronavirus to Wuhan.
“It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation,” Lijan tweeted.