Canada says it has detected a disinformation campaign likely tied to China that has targeted dozens of its politicians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The “spamouflage” campaign used waves of online posts to discredit Canadian MPs, the foreign ministry said.
It says the campaign was carried out to silence criticism of Beijing.
China has previously denied any allegations of interference in Canadian affairs.
Global Affairs Canada said that its Rapid Response Mechanism, which was set up to monitor foreign state-sponsored disinformation efforts, detected in August a “spamouflage” campaign that is connected to Beijing.
It said the campaign, which accelerated over the first weekend of September, featured a bot network that “left thousands of comments” in Canada’s two official languages – English and French – on the social media accounts of several Canadian politicians.
The comments claimed that a critic of the Chinese Communist Party in Canada had accused the various politicians of criminal and ethical breaches.
“The Spamouflage campaign also included the use of likely ‘deep fake’ videos, which are digitally modified by artificial intelligence, targeting the individual,” Global Affairs Canada said.
The accusations are the latest in a series of claims that have come out from Canadian intelligence agencies and officials that have accused Beijing of interfering in Canada’s elections.
A “spamouflage” campaign is one which uses a network of new or hijacked social media accounts to post propaganda messages across various platforms, such as Facebook, X/Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Medium, Reddit, TikTok and LinkedIn.
Officials said those same accounts were also involved in spreading disinformation about the Hawaii wildfires in August, falsely claiming that they were caused by a secret US military “weather weapon”.
In addition to the prime minister, the campaign targeted Conservative opposition leader Pierre Polievre and several members of Mr Trudeau’s cabinet, officials said.
Global Affairs Canada said it has notified the affected social media platforms about the posts, “resulting in much of the activity and network being removed”.
The department said it has also alerted the affected politicians and has given them advice on how to protect themselves and how to report any “suspected foreign interference activity”.
The bot network behind this campaign could be linked to a larger, well-known Spamouflage network that has been publicly reported on in the past by tech giants like Meta and Microsoft, officials said.
This network has also been studied by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a Canberra-based non-partisan think tank, which helped Canada make its own assessments.
Earlier in September, Canada launched a foreign interference inquiry tasked with probing any meddling in its elections by China, Russia and other actors.
Source : BBC