Not satisfied with just blaming Russia for election meddling, US officials are now claiming Moscow is trying to “sow discord” by spreading disinformation about the coronavirus and the US’ role in its creation and global response.
Without citing specific examples, officials told AFP that the foreign nation is using “false personas” to spread conspiracy theories about the virus, including that the virus is the US’ attempt to “wage economic war on China” and that it could be a biological weapon deployed by the CIA to “spread anti-China messages.”
The messages are apparently spread through thousands of online accounts, run by people and not bots, which post similar messages in multiple languages and can be “linked back to Russian proxies.” The unknown number of accounts all received “carte blanche” from the Russian government to say whatever they can to damage the US’ reputation, the report claims.
Philip Reeker, the acting Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, says Russia’s intent in this loosely-detailed effort is to “undermine US institutions and alliances from within.”
The disinformation campaign was supposedly flagged in mid-January, with even media companies like RT and Sputnik being named as part of the effort to push anti-US messages in relation to the virus.
“The Russian strategy is to very cheaply but very effectively take advantage of the information environment to sow discord between us and China, or for economic purposes,” said Special Envoy Lea Gabrielle, head of the Global Engagement Center, which is supposed to identify and combat propaganda. Why Russia needs to “sow discord” between the US and China, when Washinton has been doing it successfully over recent years was not explained. Relations between the two countries have already soured due to Trump’s trade negotiations, imposed tariffs and even labeling the country a “threat to the world” before the coronavirus ever became a situation.
The State Department also blamed this campaign of “Russian talking points” for slower responses to the coronavirus in Africa and Asia.
All this information is supposedly gathered in a report by the Global Engagement Center (GCE) and seen by AFP. The State Department’s GCE has a sketchy history of being accused of spreading its own propaganda, like a $1.5 million program that was deployed to discredit any and all critics of Trump’s policies in Iran. The account @IranDisinfo was running smear campaigns against anyone, including journalists, who dared to challenge the president’s hawkish policies, despite the account supposedly being meant to only combat Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) propaganda.
For those keeping track at home, US officials have now blamed Russia for not only using the coronavirus to try and hurt the US’ “reputation,” but they have also conspired with Trump to win the 2016 election – a narrative House and Senate Dems are still pushing even after the two-plus year Mueller investigation came up limp – and worked to build up the campaigns of non-mainstream Democrats like Tulsi Gabbard, whom Hillary Clinton previously claimed is a “Russian agent,” and Bernie Sanders. It’s difficult to tell how Russia is functioning as a country if they are behind all of these elaborate campaigns US officials blame them for.