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Canada tells of China-linked ‘spamouflage’ blitz on MPs’ social media

The Canadian government has said it has detected a China-linked campaign that involved bots posting disinformation and propaganda as comments on the social media feeds of members of parliament, including the prime minister, Justin Trudeau.

The “spamouflage” campaign, using networks of new and hijacked social media accounts to post bulk messages, took place in August and September, and targeted dozens of lawmakers from across the political spectrum, Canada’s foreign ministry announced.

The messages included accusations against the lawmakers of criminal and ethical violations, a claim that the Hawaii wildfires were caused by a secret US military “weather weapon”, and deepfake videos.

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Thousands of such comments in English and French were posted on the lawmakers’ Facebook and X feeds, and the government worked with the platforms to get the bot networks removed.

“This campaign could discourage and make it difficult for MPs to carry out their duties and may dissuade MPs and diaspora communities in Canada from speaking out on issues which concern them,” said a foreign ministry report.

In a statement, the Chinese embassy in Canada said Beijing had never interfered in the internal affairs of other countries and the accusations were a “blatant smear campaign”.

China-Canada relations turned icy in late 2018 when Canadian police detained a Chinese telecommunications executive. Shortly 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 illegal police stations and the targeting of lawmakers. China has denied all such allegations.

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In September, the Trudeau government announced an independent public inquiry into allegations of attempted foreign meddling by China, Russia and others.

With Reuters