A report by The New York Times claims Chinese operatives helped spread false COVID-19 information via text and social media across the US. According to US intelligence officials, the Chinese operatives amplified disinformation about a national lockdown, and those messages then spread quickly on their own. Some of the tactics reportedly used -- like creating fake social media accounts to push messages to sympathetic Americans -- are reminiscent of techniques used by Russia-backed trolls, NYT reports.
According to the NYT, a couple versions of these disinformation messages circulated widely, beginning in mid-March. The messages claimed that President Trump was about to shut down the country. They generally attributed a friend in a federal agency like the Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security, FBI or CIA. The messages gathered enough attention that on March 15th, the National Security Council tweeted, “Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE.”