The Pentagon’s Anti-Vax Campaign Targeting China’s Sinovac

June 21, 2024

Reuters has just released results of its own investigation into a U.S. military-initiated covert operation during the height of the COVID pandemic, aimed at countering China’s influence in the Philippines by undermining trust in Chinese-supplied vaccines and aid. Reuters itself is a member of the so-called Trusted News Initiative (TNI), a global consortium of legacy news outlets that implemented a highly coordinated and widespread censorship effort during Covid to block what it called “anti-vax mis-, dis-, and mal-information.” These include information that may be true but which would instill doubt in public health programs such as vaccination efforts led by government. Reuters is funded in part by TNI partners including the British government’s BBC News, the Facebook Journalism Project, and Google News Initiative, among many others.

Reuters claims that its investigation uncovered a clandestine campaign by the U.S. Pentagon involving the creation of fake online personas to spread anti-vaccine propaganda, particularly targeting China’s Sinovac vaccine, which does not use the mRNA technology. After Reuters asked then-Twitter about the accounts, the social media company removed the profiles, determining they were part of a coordinated bot campaign based on activity patterns and internal data.

The operation, which started under Trump and continued into Biden’s presidency, expanded beyond Southeast Asia well into 2021, and aimed to sow fear of China’s vaccines among Muslims, alleging religious violations due to pork gelatin content. Despite warnings from alarmed social media executives, according to Reuters, the Pentagon persisted until mid-2021 when the Biden administration halted the program.

Critics, including public health experts and Filipino officials, condemned the military’s actions for potentially endangering lives and undermining public trust in vaccines. The covert propaganda effort exacerbated existing vaccine skepticism in the Philippines, where former President Duterte resorted to threats to boost vaccination rates.

Reuters concluded that the U.S. military’s disregard for public health implications and diplomatic objections underscores the ethical concerns raised by this operation, which sought to disparage China rather than prioritize public health — a claim that assumes the Sinovac vaccines would have saved lives by preventing Covid infection or reducing disease severity during the pandemic.

It is worth noting that the Reuters article makes the false claim that “the U.S. military is prohibited from targeting Americans with propaganda,” referring to the Smith-Mundt Act’s ban on “domestic dissemination” of propaganda by our government, a ban which Congress rescinded in 2013. and Reuters found no evidence the Pentagon’s influence operation did so. the U.S. Pentagon is forbidden by law from releasing propagan

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