Researchers Found Chinese Twitter Accounts Lied About COVID-19 Coming From Maine Lobsters

Image via Getty/Justin Sullivan
Image via Getty/Justin Sullivan
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A researcher found that Chinese Twitter accounts were spreading disinformation about COVID-19 being linked to Maine lobsters.

According to USA Today, Chinese diplomats and state media were spearheading the Twitter campaign for 18 months. Oxford researcher Marcel Schliebs discovered the virus origin story via a tweet from Kolkata, India Chinese consul general Zha Liyou, which said that the virus emerged from a contaminated shipment of Maine lobsters that were sent to Wuhan in November 2019.

“Major suspect of COVID via cold chain identified: A MU298 of Nov. 11, 2019 carrying food from Maine, US to Huanan Seafood Market, Wuhan, Hubei via Shanghai,” the tweet reportedly read. “During the next few weeks, many workers around moving this batch of seafood got infected.”

Schliebs then uncovered over 550 Twitter accounts—some real and some not—that were spreading similar pro-China messages, in a number of languages, including Spanish, English, Korean, French, and Latin.

“Almost since the beginning of the outbreak, the question of the origin of COVID has been of core importance to the Chinese propaganda apparatus,” Schliebs said. “This coordinated operation was clearly trying to promote narratives in line with Beijing’s general propaganda strategy and geopolitical objectives.”

He told the outlet that Twitter was notified last week and “they were very responsive and suspended the accounts very rapidly within a few hours. Fortunately, we detected the campaign as it was still in its early growth phase and before it could really start to reach and impact real genuine audiences.”

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