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House Republican urges Pompeo to take steps to limit misinformation from China on coronavirus

House Republican urges Pompeo to take steps to limit misinformation from China on coronavirus
© Greg Nash

Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulUS ambassador to Israel Twitter account briefly includes West Bank, Gaza Biden urged to reverse Pompeo-Trump move on Houthis Kremlin critic Navalny detained in Moscow upon return to Russia MORE (R-Texas) is urging Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoJilani: China 'sending clear message' to Biden officials with sanctions that opposition could lead to 'future pay cut' New Israeli envoy arrives in Washington, turning page on Trump era Biden ousts controversial head of US Agency for Global Media MORE to take steps to limit the spread of online Chinese misinformation around the coronavirus pandemic.

McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Pompeo on Thursday requesting that Pompeo intensify efforts to counter disinformation around the coronavirus spread by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

“The CCP is carrying out a disinformation campaign in an attempt to transfer blame to the United States that is exacerbating this dire situation,” McCaul wrote. “The State Department has demonstrated considerable flexibility and ingenuity in responding to the CCP’s information warfare, and I urge you and your team to continue these efforts and to coordinate with willing allies.”

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The congressman asked that the State Department pursue an investigation into the “CCP’s coronavirus coverup,” including disinformation spread about where the virus originated, and that Pompeo brief Congress about the CCP’s disinformation efforts. 

“The CCP’s information warfare against the United States on coronavirus and other matters underscores the Department’s counter disinformation and public diplomacy efforts are more important than ever,” McCaul wrote. 

The letter to Pompeo was sent on the heels of a separate one McCaul sent to the CEOs of Google, Amazon, Twitter and Facebook earlier this week, in which he called on the social media platforms to ban all CCP media outlets and their officials from posting due to the disinformation they spread, as well as Beijing recently expelling American journalists in China. 

A spokesperson for McCaul told The Hill that the companies were working with him to address his concerns, with the spokesperson adding they hoped the companies would “do the right thing and take this propaganda down.”

Pompeo has called out China and other countries in recent weeks for spreading disinformation around the coronavirus pandemic.

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"There are coordinated efforts to disparage what America is doing and our activity to do all the things President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE has set into motion," Pompeo said during a press briefing on the pandemic last week. 

“It is pretty diffused, unfortunately,” Pompeo added. “But we have certainly seen it come from places like China, and Russia and Iran.”

McCaul is not the first lawmaker to criticize China for its actions around the coronavirus crisis. 

Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseSenate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Budowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Pompeo labels China's treatment of Uighurs 'genocide' MORE (R-Neb.) and Rep. Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherHouse approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee 'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack GOP lawmaker on protesters storming Capitol: 'I have not seen anything like this since I deployed to Iraq' MORE (R-Wis.) sent a joint letter to Twitter last week asking the platform to block CCP content. Twitter later told The Hill that “official government accounts engaging in conversation about the origins of the virus” would not be taken down.