Facebook suspended a large network of accounts originating in China – due to a major fraud involving a non-existent Swiss researcher.
In July, a Facebook account was created under the name “Wilson Edwards”, which was named after the Swiss biologist. He wrote, without providing any evidence, that US officials had applied “enormous pressure and threats as well” to get researchers to investigate the origins of the coronavirus.
Within hours, the post was noticed and relayed by hundreds of other accounts. Within a week, the “researcher”‘s allegations were picked up and made headlines in China’s state-run media.
The Swiss Embassy in Beijing wrote on Twitter, “If you’re around, we’d love to meet you!” Edwards cannot be found in the population registry.
At the time, the United States repeatedly called on China for more transparency regarding the origin of the virus.
Several accounts were created in the network that helped expose the post on the same day. Many were portrayed as Westerners, using fake profile pictures. Facebook traced some of them to a technology company in Chengdu, China, and many others to foreign employees of Chinese state-owned companies in more than 20 countries.
A total of about 600 Facebook and Instagram accounts linked to the effort have been deleted, according to parent company Meta.
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