Chinese operatives reportedly stoked coronavirus lockdown panic in US

They pushed coronavirus misinformation in order to cause division, reports The New York Times.

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Coronavirus phone

A report from The New York Times looks into the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus. 

James Martin/CNET

Chinese operatives reportedly spread fake texts and social media posts about a national lockdown in the US relating to the coronavirus, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Messages warning of a lockdown were amplified in order to cause panic in the US and create political friction, according to the Times, which cited six anonymous American officials at six different agencies. Where those messages originated is unclear.

"Those efforts enabled the messages to catch the attention of enough people that they then spread on their own, with little need for further work by foreign agents," according to the report.

The officials interviewed also said these operatives used some of the moves employed by Russian-backed trolls, like creating fake social media accounts in order to further push out the message to sympathetic Americans.

Social media staples like Facebook and Twitter have been trying to weed out misinformation on their platforms. Facebook established a COVID-19 Information Center and will let users know if they've interacted with a post that's been taken down. Twitter directs those who search "coronavirus" to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Chinese embassy didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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