Marcel Schliebs, a disinformation researcher at the University of Oxford, told NBC he has been tracking Chinese diplomats and state media online for about 18 months.
Mr Schliebs said one unsubstantiated theory which has only recently emerged is that coronavirus arrived in China at a Wuhan seafood market via Maine lobsters shipped from the US in 2019.
Wuhan is believed to be the origin of Covid-19 but the exact place it emerged is yet to be confirmed. It could be the case that no one ever discovers where coronavirus came from.
But Mr Schliebs said the lobster theory is one of many being tossed around by Chinese social media accounts including 550 he discovered on Twitter. He added it’s hard to find proper attribution for many of the theories and many accounts belong to “unsophisticated sock puppets”.
“But we can see there’s a coordinated effort, and that it’s a pro-Chinese narrative,” he told NBC.
He identified one of the accounts pushing the lobster theory as belonging to Zha Liyou, the Chinese consul general in Kolkata, India.
Ms Schliebs shared a spreadsheet of accounts that appeared to be behaving inauthentically with Twitter. Twitter told NBC it suspended the accounts.
Mr Schliebs’ examples show a concerted effort to confuse people. Many theories on the origins of coronavirus have been floated over the past 24 months.
Most recently, Chinese defector Wei Jingsheng told Sky News the Military World Games in October, which saw thousands of athletes from around the world head to the central Chinese city, was likely the first superspreader event.
There have also been claims of coverups.
It could suggest Chinese authorities were aware of Covid-19 and how contagious it was as early as June 2019.
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