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According to a Reuters investigation, the US military propagated anti-vax propaganda through social media in the Philippines.

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The US military used fictitious social media profiles to spread anti-vaccine propaganda in the Philippines at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a startling discovery made by Reuters. The goal of this campaign, which ran from spring 2020 to mid-2021, was to raise questions about the safety and effectiveness of China’s COVID-19 vaccine in an effort to erode China’s expanding regional influence.

Casting doubt on China’s Vaccine

According to the inquiry, the US military disseminated misleading information regarding the Sinovac vaccine, which was extensively used in the Philippines, as part of its propaganda campaigns. A noteworthy instance from 2020 was a tweet that said, “Don’t trust China—COVID and VACCINE both came from China!” This and other similar ads aimed to create suspicion among the Filipino populace by connecting the virus’s origins to the vaccination.

The campaign also featured stories implying that China’s vaccinations were “haram,” or prohibited by Islamic law, since they contained a derivative of pigs. The substantial Muslim community in the Philippines was the target of these accusations, which increased mistrust of China’s vaccination initiatives.

The Impact of Low Vaccination Rates on COVID-19

Even after China’s Sinovac vaccine was introduced, the Philippines had very low immunization rates in 2021. The nation has reported close to 50,000 COVID-19 fatalities by November 2021. It’s thought that the anti-vax advertising contributed to the delayed vaccination uptake, which made the public health emergency worse.

Reaction of Social Media Platforms

Former military personnel reportedly acknowledged to Reuters that the Pentagon ran propaganda accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and X (previously Twitter). It has been revealed that in late 2020, Facebook management sent a warning to the Pentagon about these accounts’ alleged violations of the platform’s standards. Some of these accounts remained active, even after the Pentagon promised to stop using them for anti-vaccine activities.

At least 300 accounts on X that seemed to be a part of the US military operation were also found by Reuters. Following their discovery to be bots, these accounts were deleted from the platform.

The Pentagon’s Argument

According to reports, the US military’s effort was started in reaction to China’s government’s assertion that the COVID-19 virus originated in the US. A Pentagon spokesman recognized China’s misinformation attempts in a statement to Reuters, saying the use of social media and other platforms to counterbalance assaults with malicious influence directed towards the United States and its allies was legitimate.

This discovery sheds light on the intricate relationship between public health and world politics and shows how disinformation and propaganda may have far-reaching effects in times of crisis. The continuous effects of the epidemic are still being felt by many countries, thus it is critical that accurate and truthful information is shared.

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