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This paper describes a 2020 disinformation campaign promoting the unsubstantiated claim that the novel coronavirus is the product of a Chinese bioweapons program. Exploiting a vulnerability in open-access scientific publishing, the campaign was based on papers posted to an online preprint repository designed to accelerate the diffusion of scientific knowledge. This provided the campaign with an air of scientific legitimacy, helped it reach millions of Americans, and muddied public discourse over the origins of SARS-CoV-2. This case study offers insights into the tactics and practices of media manipulation, the contested nature of modern epistemic systems, the interplay of technical and social systems, and the vulnerability of open systems to manipulation.


Nilsen, Jennifer, Joan Donovan, and Rob Faris. "Cloaked science: the Yan reports." Information, Communication & Society 25.5 (2022): 598-608.