The social media account in question – Zhidao Xuegong (the Scholar Forum for Ultimate Truth) – had millions of followers under its belt prior to its ban, but apparently crossed the line with a controversial post alleging that “The US has been processing dead bodies from Covid-19 diseases into hamburgers.” It was shut down on Sunday for “fabricating facts, stoking xenophobia and misleading the public,” according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

An article published on the account earlier this month elaborated further, explaining that “cannibalism” was a common practice in the United States until recently, and that it had only been “a few dozen years” since Americans consumed “blacks, Indians and Chinese” as a matter of course. The piece garnered at least 100,000 readers, 753 of them even donating money to the account.

The decision to scrub the handle is thought to be part of an effort by Beijing to defuse an escalating war of words with Washington, as the countries trade accusations over their respective responses to the pandemic. With relations continuing to sour, certain segments of Chinese society have sought to take advantage of growing hostility toward the US, the SCMP reported, at times encouraging far-fetched conspiracy theories.

In addition to the Zhidao Xuegong account, WeChat says it banned seven others for similar policy violations.

On Friday, the Cyberspace Administration of China began what it said would be an eight-month campaign to purge China’s internet of “illegal and false information.” It is unclear whether the WeChat purge is related to the campaign, however.

Throughout the coronavirus epidemic, misleading content has run rife on the internet in China. Tencent, WeChat’s parent company, said that it had closed down 2,500 accounts for “misleading content,” as well as at least 20,000 others for “fake news” since the beginning of the outbreak.

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