China-linked campaign pushes unfounded claim tying Maine lobster to COVID: report

China-linked campaign pushes unfounded claim tying Maine lobster to COVID: report
© credit: Red Lobster

Researchers have spotted an unusual Chinese campaign to suggest that Maine lobsters may have been the source of COVID-19.

An investigation conducted by University of Oxford in conjunction with NBC News found the idea was floated by a Chinese diplomat, who tweeted an unfounded claim that lobster shipped from Maine to a market in Wuhan, China, could be the source of the outbreak.

Disinformation researcher Marcel Schliebs then found some 550 other Twitter accounts that amplified the theory, sharing the baseless claim in English, Spanish, French, Polish and Korean, with the accounts all posting at similar times.

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“Attribution is really difficult,” Schliebs, with the Oxford Internet Institute, told NBC. ““But we can see there’s a coordinated effort, and that it’s a pro-Chinese narrative.”

There is no evidence that lobster is the source on COVID-19, despite theories the disease may have jumped from animals to humans.

The Maine CDC has refuted the claims.

"There is absolutely no credible scientific evidence to indicate that Maine lobsters have anything to do with the origin of the COVID-19 virus," Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said in a statement to The Hill.

"It’s unfortunate that this red herring has drawn attention away from important conversations about the steps we all can take to protect ourselves and others from this potentially deadly virus."

The pro-Chinese narrative comes as the U.S. has expressed frustration with the country’s leaders for failing to fully cooperate on efforts to track the origins of the coronavirus. 

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“China’s cooperation most likely would be needed to reach a conclusive assessment of the origins of COVID-19. Beijing, however, continues to hinder the global investigation, resist sharing information and blame other countries, including the United States,” a report from the U.S. intelligence community in August stated. 

The report was inconclusive about the origins of COVID-19 but U.S. officials stated that it was not developed as a biological weapon.

The untested theory comes as the Maine lobster industry has had a rough few years with China, losing considerable market share in the country amid former President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel faces double-edged sword with Alex Jones, Roger Stone Trump goes after Woodward, Costa over China Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves MORE’s trade war with China.

China retaliated to other tariffs by slapping an 8 to 30 percent markup on U.S. lobster.