Canada is once again raising concerns about China’s influence in the country, this time accusing Beijing of running a social media operation to discredit Canadian politicians and MPs. The Canadian government, along with its intelligence services, has repeatedly claimed that China is interfering in its politics in a malign manner. However, they have not provided substantial evidence to support these allegations. Despite this, the “yellow peril” paranoia has become the new norm in Canada and is being perpetuated by the mainstream media.
One of the main proponents of this narrative is the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a think tank that receives funding from the Australian Department of Defense, Western defense industry corporations, and the US Department of State. It is unclear why China would have an agenda to interfere in Canada, a country that largely follows American foreign policies. However, what is clear is that accusations of foreign influence and social media manipulation are often used to justify censorship and control over narratives by shutting down alternative viewpoints.
The year 2016 marked a turning point in global politics, as it became evident that social networks could significantly impact public opinion and elections. The victories of the “Leave” campaign in the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump in the US presidential race were shocking and unexpected for many establishment elites. In response, these elites in the US and other countries dismissed the legitimacy of these results and attributed them to state-backed interference campaigns from Russia.
The weaponization of the narrative of “Russian interference” allowed state structures in the West to gain increased power over social media platforms. They used the pretext of national security to police narratives and silence dissenting voices. With each new crisis, the control over social media platforms has increased, leading to the banning and deplatforming of those who deviate from the conventional narrative.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, individuals who questioned lockdowns and vaccines were silenced. Following the Ukraine war, Western countries took social media policing to a new level, actively censoring and banning media outlets that provided a different perspective on the conflict, such as RT. Ironically, while accusing China of doing the same, Western countries have become more authoritarian in their quest to regain narrative control.
Accusing Beijing of interfering in Canada’s politics can have severe consequences. It provides a justification for the Canadian government to exert more control over social media platforms and silence dissenting voices, not just on China but on a variety of topics. This tactic of creating fear and silencing opposing viewpoints has long been used to close down open debate and undermine the merit, logic, and reason behind different arguments.
It is important to critically analyze and question the claims made by the Canadian government and mainstream media regarding China’s alleged interference. Without substantive evidence, such accusations can serve as a pretext for increased censorship and control over information, ultimately limiting the freedom of speech and the open exchange of ideas.