Facebook owner Meta Platforms has removed more than 500 accounts linked to an online disinformation network primarily based in China.
The accounts had promoted the claims of a fake Swiss biologist called “Wilson Edwards,” who alleged the US was meddling in efforts to find the origins of COVID-19. Edward’s comments had been widely carried by Chinese state media outlets. However, the Swiss embassy stated that it was unlikely this person existed.
Meta stated in its report the social media campaign was “largely unsuccessful” and targeted English-speaking audiences in the United States and Britain and Chinese-speaking audiences in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Tibet. Earlier in July, an account posting as a Swiss biologist called Wilson Edwards had made statements on Facebook and Twitter that the United States was applying pressure on the World Health Organisation scientists who were studying the origins of COVID-19 in an attempt to blame the virus on China.
However, the Swiss embassy stated on August that the person likely did not exist as the Facebook account was opened only two weeks prior to its first post and only had three friends. It added, “There was no registry of a Swiss citizen with the name “Wilson Edwards” and no academic articles under the name.” The Swiss embassy then urged Chinese media outlets to take down any mention of him.
In a November report, Meta Platforms stated that its investigation into the matter found “links to individuals in mainland China, including employees of Sichuan Silence Information Technology Co Ltd… and individuals associated with Chinese state infrastructure companies based around the world.” Facebook stated that it removed a total of 524 Facebook accounts, 20 pages, four groups and 96 Instagram accounts after reviewing public reports that centred around the fake Swiss biologist.