Canada's government said a “spamouflage” campaign with ties to China targeted the social media profiles of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several other members of parliament.
The “Spamouflage” campaign involved a network of new or hacked social media accounts to spread propaganda messages across various platforms, including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Medium, Reddit, TikTok and LinkedIn .
Diplomatic ties between Canada and China have remained strained since 2018, and Ottawa has often accused Beijing of meddling in its domestic affairs, often through the use of secret police units abroad. China has rejected all allegations.
The Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) established by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) to oversee foreign-sponsored disinformation activities attributed the campaign to the People's Republic of China and said the campaign was intended to suppress criticism of the communist regime.
According to a report revealed Monday morning, the propaganda campaign had begun in August this year and specifically targeted several lawmakers representing various political ideologies, Canada's foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.
GAC said the bot network gained significant momentum over the September weekend, flooding social media accounts with thousands of comments in both English and French.
“This campaign could discourage and make it more difficult for MPs to carry out their duties and may prevent MPs and diaspora communities in Canada from speaking out about issues that concern them,” said a Foreign Office report on the incident. .
In a statement, the Chinese embassy in Canada said Beijing has never interfered in the internal affairs of other countries. It said the allegations were a “blatant smear campaign” and that Canada was “an outspoken liar and spreader of false information”.
“For some time now, the Canadian side has been falsely accusing China of spreading false information against Canadian politicians, a move that is itself spreading false information in the absence of any direct and substantial evidence,” the embassy statement said.
The GAC said campaign publications claimed a prominent critic of the Chinese Communist Party in Canada accused the MPs involved of engaging in criminal and ethical wrongdoing.
According to the department, the Chinese campaign used videos that appeared to be “deepfake” manipulated.
An email from GAC officials to affected MPs said 47 of them from across Canada were targeted, CBC News reported. The email advised MPs on how to protect themselves from foreign interference and assured them that the campaign did not pose a threat to their security.
“It is our assessment that the information operation was intended to negatively affect your reputation, not cause you physical harm or endanger your family,” the email said.
“First, he likely seeks to defame and disparage the targeted MPs through seemingly organic posts, which he claims are inappropriate, by posting waves of social media posts and videos questioning the MPs' political and moral standards, using a popular Chinese-speaking figure. in Canada,” the report said.
“Second, it likely seeks to silence criticism of the CCP by making MPs distance themselves from the critic and discouraging wider online communities from engaging with them.”