Google, YouTube and Bing Rank Chinese State Media High for COVID, Xinjiang Info
China is taking advantage of how search engines work to influence public opinion outside the country, by putting state -published stories about the suppression of Uyghur Muslims and the origin of the coronavirus at the top of Google searches , YouTube and Bing.
In a report published Friday, researchers at the Brookings Institution and the Alliance for Securing Democracy found that Chinese resources are always at the top of search results for “Xinjiang,” a part of western China made up of the Uyghur minority. .
When Brookings compiled daily data for 120 days, 12 Xinjiang-related terms returned state-supported content in the first 10 results in 88% of Google Search and News, Bing Search searches and News, and YouTube. Some of that content whitens China’s forced assimilation of Uyghurs, which the U.S. State Department has called crimes against humanity.
Searches for Fort Detrick, a military base in Maryland that became the center of the U.S. biological weapons program from the early 1940s to the late 1960s, returns a high volume of Chinese propaganda promoting narration of the conspiracy about the facility as the actual source of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the report. On YouTube, the report found, searches at Fort Detrick “regularly return state -supported content, with 619 video observations from Chinese state media outlets appearing in the top 10.”
Google Search and YouTube are banned in China. Microsoft’s Bing operates in China but has suspended some elements of the service to comply with the country’s laws.
China’s search engine strategy states that it is willing to use Western tools to influence audiences outside the country. The report says the tactic is linked to the tough language of China’s “wolf warrior” diplomats, who use brusque language to push the country’s questions. China’s search tactics aim to “assert narrative dominance” through “external propaganda aimed at foreign audiences,” according to the report.
“The issue is that the Chinese state media, which doesn’t really rely on resource barriers or audience feedback, can release a large amount of propaganda on a conspiracy it wants to advance,” said Jessica Brandt, a Brookings researcher who studying government authorities. and the internet. The high volume of material makes it easier for Chinese publishers to take advantage of the search method to promote new content, Brandt says.
Ned Adriance, manager of policy communications at Google, said the search giant was trying to “combat coordinated influence and censorship operations” while balancing free expression. Some of the search queries used in the study are less common terms, which may explain why China’s state sources are in the top results, Google said.
Microsoft, recently fixed a bug who applied some Chinese political censorship to search North America, said it was reviewing the report.