- Canada says Chinese bots tried to silence online critics of Beijing
- China rejects a ‘blatant smear campaign’ against the Asian dictatorship
- ‘Spamouflage’ combines the words ‘spam’ and ‘camouflage’
Canada’s foreign ministry said Chinese-run bots used networks of new and hijacked social media accounts to post bulk messages on the pages of dozens of lawmakers in August and September.
The targets spanned Canada’s political spectrum, including its left-leaning leader Trudeau and Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre.
The posts included deepfake videos and accusations against the lawmakers of criminal and ethical violations.
The social media accounts of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Canadian politicians were targeted in the disinformation blitz, it is claimed
China has a track record in using online commentators to spread the communist dictatorship’s messages
They also included a claim that the wildfires that tore through Hawaii in August were down to a secret US military ‘weather weapon.’
‘Canada has detected a spamouflage campaign connected to the People’s Republic of China,’ the ministry said in a report on Monday.
‘Beginning in early August 2023 and accelerating in scale over the September long-weekend, a bot network left thousands of comments in English and French on the Facebook and X/Twitter accounts of Canadian Members of Parliament.’
The posts claimed a critic of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Canada had accused the various MPs of criminal and ethical violations.
The campaign ‘could discourage and make it difficult for MPs to carry out their duties’ by calling into question their ‘political and ethical standards,’ the foreign ministry said.
It served to ‘silence criticism of the CCP by getting MPs to distance themselves from the critic and discouraging wider online communities from engaging with them,’ it added.
Canada has worked with the social media platforms to get the bot networks removed, it said.
China has rejected the claims.
The Chinese embassy in Canada said in a statement that Beijing has never interfered in the internal affairs of other countries.
The disinformation campaign included the claim that Hawaii’s wildfires were caused by a secret American ‘weather weapon’
The comments were posted in English and French on the Facebook and X/Twitter accounts of Canadian politicians
The accusations were a ‘blatant smear campaign’ and Canada was a ‘downright liar and disseminator of false information,’ added the statement.
The term ‘spamouflage’ is a portmanteau of the words ‘spam’ and ‘camouflage.’
It describes using social media accounts to spread and amplify propaganda messages across platforms.
The alleged bot campaign comes amid strained ties between Canada and China.
They turned icy in late 2018 when Canadian police detained a Chinese telecommunications executive.
Soon after, Beijing arrested two Canadians on spying charges. All three have since been released.
Ottawa has also accused Beijing of trying to interfere in its affairs through various schemes, including the targeting of politicians and illegal police stations.
China has strongly denied all such allegations.
But Beijing has a track record of using bots and internet commentators to spread its influence overseas.
In September, the Trudeau government announced an independent public inquiry into allegations of attempted meddling by China, Russia and other authoritarian governments.
Agencies contributed to this report.