US Government Ramps Up Efforts to Counter Disinformation on CCP Virus

US Government Ramps Up Efforts to Counter Disinformation on CCP Virus
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference at the State Department in Washington on March 25, 2020. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
Bowen Xiao

Federal agencies are ramping up efforts to counter an aggressive disinformation push by the Chinese communist regime surrounding the global pandemic by setting up new websites that separate fact from fiction.

A website titled “Coronavirus Rumor Control“ was recently launched by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security ”to help the public distinguish between rumors and facts.”

The site’s description states: “Do your part to the stop the spread of disinformation by doing 3 easy things; don’t believe the rumors, don’t pass them along, and go to trusted sources of information to get the facts about the federal (COVID-19) response.”

A Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson told The Epoch Times via email that they are also supporting FEMA with its website efforts, adding that it was part of the “the whole of government approach in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The website lists a number of myths that have been spreading and debunks them.

The Pentagon is also setting up a similar page on the Department of Defense website to debunk disinformation. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said on March 24 that the page will be called “Myth Busters” and will look into any disinformation and “knock them down.”

A defense spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an email that the department hopes to have the website up by next week.

Esper made his remarks at a virtual town hall with other military leaders, stating that there are “multiple sources of disinformation out there.” He said the website will also try to allow people to submit rumors to check if they are true or false.

“We probably have external actors, countries who want to sow chaos within the United States, who are injecting some of this into the ecosystem, if you will,” Esper said, referring to the disinformation.

“In a crisis like this, the most important thing you can do ... is to put information out constantly, to be very transparent,” he said. “But at the same time, the converse of that is knocking down rumors, knocking down myths, knocking down disinformation, all those things that cause further churn and concern.”

Esper also directly addressed some rumors that had been spreading rapidly: “There has been no talk whatsoever of martial law. There has been no talk whatsoever of mass quarantines of the United States or any of that other nonsense that is out there.”

The Epoch Times has reached out to other major federal agencies and asked them what they were doing to combat disinformation. The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment on what more the administration was doing on this front.

Meanwhile, in a press release after a virtual meeting with the the Group of Seven—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States—on March 25, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said they discussed an “intentional disinformation campaign” by Beijing about the CCP virus, also known as the novel coronavirus.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.

Pompeo said China is still delaying sharing information. He said the United States “desperately” wanted to work with every country around the world, including China, “to keep as many people alive, as many people as healthy, and then to restore our economies that have been decimated by the Wuhan virus.”

“This is a continuing challenge. We still need good information from the Chinese Communist Party about what has taken place there,” he said.

The conspiracy theory pushed by Beijing that the virus originated in the United States was dismissed by Pompeo as “crazy talk” from some senior Chinese officials.

“But every one of the nations that was at that meeting this morning was deeply aware of the disinformation campaign that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in to try and deflect from what has really taken place here,” Pompeo said.

The CCP’s aggressive global disinformation campaign is primarily to deflect blame for its poor handling of the CCP virus, sow discord internationally, and to portray an image that the regime remains in control.Chinese officials and state-run media have in recent times pushed conspiracy theories targeting the United States. Over the past few days, state-run Xinhua News has also promoted the hashtags “Trumpandemic” and “TrumpVirus” on its news posts on social media.Robert Spalding, former senior director for strategy at the White House National Security Council, told The Epoch Times previously that the United States needs to actively counter such propaganda by refuting and calling it out within 24 to 48 hours.
“If there’s no response from the other side, then they [the CCP] can control the narrative,” said Spalding, author of “Stealth War: How China Took Over While America’s Elite Slept.”

Internal government documents from China obtained by The Epoch Times have highlighted how the regime purposefully underreported cases of the CCP virus and censored discussions of the outbreak, helping to fuel the spread of the disease.

Reuters contributed to this report.
Bowen Xiao was a New York-based reporter at The Epoch Times. He covers national security, human trafficking and U.S. politics.
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