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Chinese billionaire whose yacht Steve Bannon was arrested on 'is behind fake news network'

A Chinese billionaire with close ties to Steve Bannon is behind a fake news network peddling lies about COVID vaccines, the election and QAnon, research shows. 

Guo Wengui is said to be the 'linchpin' of a digital web which falsely suggested the coronavirus shots are 'poison', said there was widespread election fraud in 2020 and posted an 'extensive collection' of videos about the Q conspiracy theory.

Bannon had been staying on the self-styled Chinese dissident's $28 million vessel, Lady May, when he was arrested in August last year for allegedly defrauding his Mexico border wall charity of $25 million.  

Now research by Graphika and first shown to The Washington Post indicates news websites, social media, local action groups and non profits linked to Wengui work together to spread the disinformation.  

Graphika describes Wengui as the 'linchpin' of the movement, adding: 'He is the leading personality, appears to define goals and messaging, and is positioned as a wise leader who should be admired and followed.' 

They add: 'Wengui is at the center of a vast network of interrelated media entities which have disseminated online disinformation and promoted real-world harassment campaigns.

'Graphika has identified thousands of mostly-authentic social media accounts associated with this network which are active across platforms including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Gab, Telegram, Parler, and Discord.' 

Guo Wengui is said to be the 'linchpin' of a digital web which falsely suggested the shots are 'poison', there was widespread election fraud and posting an 'extensive collection' of videos about the Q conspiracy theory. He is pictured with close associate Steve Bannon 

Wengui and Bannon met in October 2017 when Bannon was still working as Donald Trump's chief strategist, and say they bonded over their shared loathing of the Chinese government

Examples cited by their report include a video posted to GNews which called COVD vaccines 'fake' and 'poison'. It also looked to hydroxychloroquine as a treatment. 

Wengui fled to the US in 2014 after learning he was wanted for bribery, fraud, money laundering and rape - allegations he fiercely denies. He has spoken publicly about helping to set up GNews. 

Another site, GTV, which Guo said he helped raised funds for, 'continuously amplified QAnon-aligned content', Graphika suggest, including by posting an 'extensive collection' of videos about the conspiracy theory.  

Non profits, the Rule of Law Foundation and the Rule of Law Society, are also said to be part of the Guo's network. He launched those in 2018. 

The web network has also pushed the idea that the coronavirus was purposely manufactured in China as a bioweapon, according to research.  

Graphika said the false information pushes appear coordinated. 

Bannon had been staying on the self-styled Chinese dissident's $28 million vessel, Lady May, pictured, for weeks before his arrest in August last year for allegedly defrauding his Mexico border wall charity of $25 million

At some point Guo had also joined Mar-a-Lago where he was photographed by DailyMail.com just after Christmas 2018. He has divided opinions even among his fellow dissidents

Delaware-registered company Saraca Media Group Inc offers GNews and GTV apps in Apple's App Store. It also owns Guo Media which hired Bannon for 'strategic consulting services' related to his investigation into the Chinese Communist Party.

Under that year-long contract, Bannon received $1million from an unidentified source, WSJ reported.    

Guo and Bannon met in October 2017 when the latter was still working as Donald Trump's chief strategist, and say they bonded over their shared loathing of the Chinese government. 

And after Trump fired Bannon, Guo hired him in the $1 million consulting contract in 2018, retaining the former presidential Svengali to introduce Guo to 'media personalities' and advise Guo's nascent media company.  

Guo's spokesman Daniel Podhaskie said neither GTV or GNews is controlled by the businessman, adding: 'They are not platforms whose content is managed or directed by Mr. Guo or any single individual or company.

'GTV is an online video sharing platform with posts mainly in Chinese Mandarin. 

'Similar to Twitter and Facebook, the GTV video hosting platform allows users to create, upload, view, like/dislike, comment, and share videos … implying that Mr. Guo is responsible for everything that is posted on this platform is ludicrous.

'Mr. Guo posts his own videos on GTV and does not control or coordinate what subscribers or other GTV bloggers do with them.' 

But Joan Donovan, a technology expert at Harvard's Shorenstein Center, told the Post the research 'is an important forensic analysis of the ways that rich and politically motivated people can manipulate social media'. 

And Chinese dissident Teng Biao said he was targeted by Guo supporters. He said: 'Guo and his media have played a very active role in spreading misinformation related to Chinese and American politics and society.'                  

GTV, which Guo said he helped raised funds for, 'continuously amplified QAnon-aligned content', Graphika suggest, including by posting an 'extensive collection' of videos about the conspiracy theory

Examples cited by their report include a video posted to GNews which called COVD vaccines 'fake' and 'poison'. It also looked to hydroxychloroquine as a treatment

Guo, a former member of China's Communist Party, made headlines in June last year when he teamed up with Bannon to fly a fleet of propeller planes carrying banners congratulating the 'Federal State of New China' over New York City. 

A YouTube video posted in August 2020 shows Bannon with a slight sunburn, popped collar, and cigar in hand, standing next to Guo in one of the yacht's glitzy rooms, railing against the Chinese government.

Later that month Bannon was arrested aboard the boat on charges he pocketed donations to a crowd-funded US-Mexico border wall fundraiser; a scheme unrelated to his dealings with Guo.     

At some point Guo had also joined Mar-a-Lago where he was photographed by DailyMail.com just after Christmas 2018. 

He has divided opinions even among his fellow dissidents – some adoringly printing his slogans on t-shirts, and others claiming he is in fact a Chinese government spy.

Delaware-registered company Saraca Media Group Inc offers GNews and GTV apps in Apple's App Store. It also owns Guo Media; that hired Bannon for 'strategic consulting services' related to his investigation into the Chinese Communist Party. Under that year-long contract, Bannon received $1million from an unidentified source, WSJ reported

The enigmatic businessman is believed to have made his fortune in real estate, and says he came from humble beginnings with vivid descriptions of foraging twigs for firewood in a rural Chinese province during the country's brutal 1970s Cultural Revolution.

Guo, who now owns lavish apartments in major cities, says he made his first property deal age 25, and began building his real estate empire in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou where he constructed the city's then-tallest building, the Yuda International Trade Center. 

As well as his $28 million yacht, he acquired a 9,000-square-foot apartment overlooking Central Park on the 18th-floor of the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on New York's Fifth Avenue and similarly luxurious pads in London and Hong Kong. 

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