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Pentagon Conducted Covert Anti-Vaccine Campaign to Undermine China Amid Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. military reportedly conducted a covert campaign aimed at countering China’s influence in the Philippines, a country severely affected by the virus. This previously undisclosed operation, uncovered by a Reuters investigation, sought to undermine trust in Chinese-provided vaccines and aid.

Using fake social media accounts that purported to belong to Filipinos, the military’s propaganda efforts evolved into an anti-vaccination campaign. Posts on platforms like X (formerly Twitter) criticized the quality of Chinese-supplied face masks, test kits, and vaccines, particularly Sinovac, the first vaccine available in the Philippines.

Reuters identified approximately 300 accounts on X matching descriptions from former U.S. military officials familiar with the operation. These accounts, most created in mid-2020, prominently featured the hashtag #Chinaangvirus, echoing sentiments like “COVID and the vaccine are from China, don’t trust them!” alongside visuals of syringes and Chinese flags.

Following inquiries from Reuters, X removed these profiles, determining they were part of a coordinated bot campaign based on activity patterns and internal data analysis. The U.S. military’s anti-vaccine efforts, which started in early 2020, extended beyond Southeast Asia but were halted by mid-2021.

The campaign was tailored for different regions, including Central Asia and the Middle East, where it aimed to instill fear about Chinese vaccines among Muslim populations, suggesting incorrectly that these vaccines contained forbidden substances like pork gelatin.

Initiated under former President Donald Trump and continuing into President Joe Biden’s administration until early 2021, the effort was eventually halted following concerns raised by social media platforms and a subsequent internal Pentagon review.

It’s important to note that while the U.S. military is prohibited from targeting Americans with propaganda, there’s no evidence that this operation did so, focusing instead on international audiences.

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