Researchers: Chinese businessman is 'linchpin' of disinformation network pushing COVID, election falsehoods

·2 min read

Guo Wengui, a Chinese businessman living in self-exile in New York, is at the center of a vast online network of media websites and social media accounts that spread false claims about coronavirus vaccines, election fraud, and the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, researchers from the Graphika network analysis company write in a new report released Monday.

Guo is close to Stephen Bannon, the onetime chief strategist to former President Donald Trump; last summer, Bannon was arrested on Guo's yacht on federal fraud charges. In its report, Graphika said Guo is the "linchpin" of the disinformation network, and the "leading personality" who "appears to define goals and messaging and is positioned as a wise leader who should be admired and followed."

The network includes the media websites GTV and GNews, and Guo is often featured in their videos; in April, he appeared in a GNews video calling COVID-19 vaccines "fake" and "poison," The Washington Post reports. Graphika says the network's thousands of social media accounts work in tandem to spread disinformation, and they "appear to be run by real people but solely amplify Guo-related content." These Guo supporters call themselves "ants" and are organized into local action groups called "Himalaya farms," Graphika said.

The Graphika report is "an important forensic analysis of the ways that rich and politically motivated people can manipulate social media," Joan Donovan, director of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at Harvard's Shorenstein Center, told the Post. In an email to the Post, a spokesman for Guo said he does not control the content on GTV or GNews and "implying that Mr. Guo is responsible for everything that is posted on [GTV] is ludicrous." Read more at The Washington Post.

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