by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Microsoft helped Chinese state-run media outlets disseminate propaganda as part of previously unreported partnership agreements, documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show.
The nation’s second largest corporation signed collaboration deals with state-run Chinese media outlets including China Daily and People’s Daily, the latter of which is the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Chinese government. Summaries of the deal state Microsoft would provide China Daily with technology that lets the paper target potential readers and gave the People’s Daily access to an artificial intelligence bot specially designed to be controlled and censored by the Chinese Communist Party.
The deals have not been widely reported outside of China, nor have the financial terms been disclosed. A spokeswoman for Microsoft said both agreements “expired years ago and were not renewed.” But experts say the fact that Microsoft inked the deals at all is a major win for the Chinese Communist Party.
“These are major propaganda outlets that publish outright falsehoods attacking the ideas of democracy, attacking the very concepts that undergird our society, and yet an American company is working to spread this,” said Geoffrey Cain, policy director at the Tech Integrity Project, which fights Chinese Communist Party influence in American tech companies. “The purpose of all this is to show the Chinese Communist Party that it’s firmly on the side of China and the Chinese system,” Cain added.
Both the China Daily and the People’s Daily are widely considered propaganda tools for the Chinese Communist Party. China Daily is published by the party’s Central Propaganda Department. The State Department in 2020 determined the People’s Daily’s parent company was “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by the Chinese government. In an announcement for the designation, then-secretary of state Mike Pompeo referred to the paper as one of the “mouthpieces of the Chinese Communist Party.”