BEIJING – About 30 Twitter groups who claimed to be supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump, the Republican Party or the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon, have propagated rumors that the coronavirus was a bioweapon created by China, according to new research.
After analyzing over 2.6 million tweets collected by the think tank Australia Institute’s Center for Responsible Technology in the 10 days from late March, the research found that 28 so-called Twitter groups associated with conservative politicians or QAnon spread the story about the origin of COVID-19.
Many of the Twitter groups are automatically generated Twitter accounts that shared posts frequently, it added.
There have been coronavirus related-rumors on social media since early January that some governments created the new virus as part of “military experiments,” U.S. political news outlet Politico reported Tuesday. The World Health Organization and several fact-checking groups have rejected such rumors.
The think tank researchers found the conspiracy theory labeling “COVID-19 a Chinese bioweapon” had been shared by these Twitter groups nearly 900 times, the report said.
“Those online messages were then retweeted 18,500 times, collectively garnering as many as 5 million views of the rumor across Twitter,” it added.
In early May, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agitated for “significant evidence” on the virus’ origin from the central Chinese city of Wuhan. However, he did offer any concrete proof to validate his claims.
The WHO responded by saying that such a claim on the virus’ origin remains “speculative,” as the organization had not received any data or evidence from the U.S. side.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted by TASS news agency as saying in an interview with the National Interest published on Saturday that “the United States uses every single area to pressure China in a most energetic and most forceful manner.”
“I think it clearly entails a further growth of uncertainty in international relations,” said Ryabkov.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that Washington’s announcement to punish China could validate the belief that the United States intends to contain China’s rise.