Canada on Monday warned of a “Spamouflage” disinformation campaign linked to China that used waves of online posts and deepfake videos manipulated to try to disparage and discredit Canadian lawmakers.
The Global Affairs department said in a statement it had “detected a ‘Spamouflage’ campaign connected to the People’s Republic of China.”
The bot network, according to the government ministry, left thousands of messages on the social media accounts of dozens of members of parliament, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and opposition leader Pierre Poilievre, accusing them of criminal and ethical violations.
It started in early August and scaled up in September, it said, with the aim of “discrediting and denigrating the targeted MPs” and “silencing criticism of the CCP,” or Chinese Communist Party.
China’s foreign ministry on Tuesday rejected the allegations, saying Ottawa “confuses black with white and misleads public opinion.”
Canada’s allegations come after tech giant Meta said in an August security report it had purged thousands of Facebook and Instagram accounts that were part of the widespread online Chinese spam operation.
Active across more than 50 platforms and forums including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and X, formerly known as Twitter, a Meta executive said it was believed to be “the largest” and “most prolific covert influence operation” in the world.
The network typically posted praise for China and criticisms of the United States, Western foreign policies, and critics of the Chinese government including journalists and researchers, the Meta report said.
Other targets have included Taiwan, Australia, Britain, Japan and global Chinese-speaking audiences.
On Tuesday, China’s foreign ministry angrily rejected the latest
“For some time now, the Canadian side has repeatedly claimed that China has spread disinformation targeting Canadian politicians, but they have never offered any proof,” said spokesperson Mao Ning.
“Canada is the one creating and spreading disinformation,” she added.
“China urges Canada to respect facts and truth, stop spreading lies about China, and stop poisoning the atmosphere of bilateral relations and damaging our ties with its words and deeds.”
Relations between Ottawa and Beijing hit a low this year following accusations of Chinese meddling in Canadian elections and the attempted intimidation of MPs that led to the expulsion of a Chinese diplomat in May.