Text and social-media messages received by millions of Americans in the fraught days of mid-March, claiming that the Trump administration was about to embark on a draconian lockdown of the entire country, were pushed by Chinese disinformation operatives, six unnamed U.S. officials have told The New York Times. The messages, one of which claimed American troops would be “put in place to help prevent looters and rioters,” circulated so widely that the White House’s National Security Council issued an announcement via Twitter that the threats they reported were not true. Two of the officials said they did not believe Chinese operatives created the lockdown messages, but rather amplified existing ones. Those efforts enabled the messages, which generally attributed their contents to a friend in a federal agency, to then spread on their own. The messages formed part of a wider information war over the virus that has seen China claim without evidence that the U.S. Army might have taken the virus to the Chinese city of Wuhan.
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