NYT: As the Wuhan Virus Spreads, China and Russia See Openings for Disinformation
WASHINGTON — China and Russia have both seized on the novel coronavirus to wage disinformation campaigns that seek to sow doubts about the United States’ handling of the crisis and deflect attention from their own struggles with the pandemic, according to American intelligence officials and diplomats.
Kremlin-aligned websites aimed at Western audiences have trafficked in conspiracy theories to spread fear in Europe and political division in the United States, the officials said, noting that Russia’s diplomats and state-run news media have arguably been more restrained.
China has been more overtly aggressive. It has used a network of government-linked social media accounts to spread discredited, and sometimes contradictory, theories. And China has adopted Russia’s playbook for more covert operations, mimicking Kremlin disinformation campaigns and even using and amplifying some of the same conspiracy sites.
The propaganda campaigns show how both countries turned to a typical authoritarian tactic of spreading propaganda to undermine their shared adversary, the United States, rather than addressing public criticism of their own problems.