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 McCaulHouse passes bill that would sanction Chinese officials over Xinjiang camps The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve House GOP to launch China probes beyond COVID-19 MORE (R-Texas) is urging Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBritain and Europe need to step up their support for Hong Kong Take China seriously, not literally Sunday shows preview: Leaders weigh in as country erupts in protest over George Floyd death 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 John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points 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 SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseHillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting Lawmakers ask for briefings on Chinese targeting of coronavirus research On The Money: GOP senators heed Fed chair's call for more relief | Rollout of new anti-redlining laws spark confusion in banking industry | Nearly half of American households have lost employment income during pandemic MORE (R-Neb.) and Rep. Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherRep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman Hillicon Valley: House FISA bill in jeopardy | Democrats drop controversial surveillance measure | GOP working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections Lawmakers introduce bill to invest 0 billion in science, tech research 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.