OTTAWA — The Canadian government said on Monday it detected a China-linked “Spamouflage” campaign that involved bots posting disinformation and propaganda on the social media accounts of members of parliament, including 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, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The messages included accusations against the lawmakers of criminal and ethical violations, a claim that Hawaiian wildfires were caused by a secret US military “weather weapon” and deepfake videos.
Thousands of such comments in English and French were posted on the lawmakers’ Facebook and X accounts, 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 about 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 accusations were a “blatant smear campaign” and that Canada was a “downright liar and disseminator 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 in itself a dissemination of false information, in the absence of any direct and substantive evidence,” the embassy statement said, adding that Canada should do more to improve and develop bilateral relations.
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 strongly denied all such allegations.
In September, the Trudeau government announced an independent public inquiry into allegations of attempted foreign meddling by China, Russia and others. — Reuters