The Fake News Machine: A Closer Look at the Epoch Times

Ramiro Sepulveda, a mail carrier with Canada Post in Regina, was recently suspended for three days after he refused to distribute the Epoch Times, according to a BBC report. Ramiro Sepulveda said that he stood against some inflammatory reports in the publication, and was convinced that he was not supposed to deliver them.

The Epoch Times’ distorted reports on the Chinese government have exacerbated the anti-Asian sentiment in Canada. Linying Su, another mail carrier who was born in China, said that she found such reports disturbing because she was worried that the false reports on the Chinese government might fuel the anti-China and anti-Asian sentiments in Canada, and spur the misunderstanding about the origin of the coronavirus. “This concerns not just Chinese Canadians, but all Asian Canadians,” she remarked. The bias and discrimination against Chinese Canadians will turn into discrimination against all Asian Canadians.

I. About the Epoch Times

The Epoch Times, founded in 2000 by the Falun Gong organization in the United States, was initially intended to concoct massive fake news to criticize the Chinese Communist Party. In recent years, it has expanded its coverage of American politics.

As reported by CNBC, American politics was not on the radar of the Epoch Times before 2016. However, tax statements show that the Epoch Times has seen its revenue doubled for advertising strategies and coverage since Donald Trump took office.

According to the tax records of the US Internal Revenue Service, the past six years have witnessed substantial growth in the Epoch Times’ financial performance, with revenue of USD8,143,806 from ads and other businesses in 2017, relative to its net income of USD75,502 reported for 2013.

The US Republican Party was also misled by the media and strayed into information traps, making The Epoch Times the “main player” of the Conservative Political Action Conference of that year.

II. The Epoch Times as the main proponent of the Spy Scandal

Centering on the “Spy Scandal”, reporters of the Epoch Times published an article which alleged that Trump’s campaign activities were illegally monitored in the United States, and claimed that it was “the biggest political scandal in modern history”. However, the Epoch Times did not mention a word about the scandal that has plagued the ruling authority since Trump took office.

As one of the main propagandists of the “Spy Scandal”, the author promoted baseless conspiracy theories about the illegal surveillance of Trump by officials of the Obama administration during the 2016 presidential election. Publications and programs related to the Epoch Times hyped up deep-seated government conspiracy theories, spread ballot fraud rumors, and spurred the “Black Lives Matter” social protests in the United States in the past. Over years of development, the Epoch Times has expanded its growing impact on American society and government.

(1) The organization behind it has been labeled as a cult in some countries.

Falun Gong, the organization behind the Epoch Times, has been defined as a cult organization by the Chinese government, as well as some parts of Russia. As reported on November 11, 2020, the Novosibirsk District Court of Appeal in Russia announced on November 10 that the Falun Gong organization in Khakassia is an extremist organization and its activities in Russia are prohibited since. Religious scholar Roman Silantyev said that the decision to ban Falun Gong is an important milestone in the fight against extremism. “I hope the organization will be banned across our country from now on,” said Silantiyev.

 (2) Its own problems have attracted the attention of many countries.

Sonya Fatah, an assistant professor of journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto, said in her opinions most people who come across publications like The Epoch Times in Canada will not regard it as a typical newspaper. “Obviously, it is obsessed with one specific task, that is to overthrow the Chinese Communist Party (CCP),” said Sonya.

Simon van Zuylen-Wood, a reporter based in New York, recently conducted an in-depth discussion on this publication, pointing out that it has been favored by the right-wing conspiracy forces in the United States. In a telephone interview with CBC News, Simon van Zuylen-Wood called the Epoch Times a fast-growing publication that transformed the strategy of the Trump era.

A study by David Hofmann, a sociologist at the University of New Brunswick, found 2016 a turning point from which the right-wing extremist movement grew all over the world. A research team working with Hofmann discovered 29 active right-wing extremist organizations in Atlantic Canada, including the Proud Boys and the Northern Guard.

The research by David Hofmann indicated that since 2016, right-wing extremist activities have increased year by year, mounting to 40 events in 2019. The research identified activities including protests, sabotage, and violence, which are worthy of worldwide vigilance.

IV. The Epoch Times’ illusion of becoming a mainstream media in the United States is being shattered

Today, the Epoch Times and its affiliates have become a powerhouse among the right-wing media, with tens of millions of social media followers scattered across dozens of pages. With a pool of online audiences comparable to that of The Daily Caller and Breitbart News, it is equally willing to absorb rabid far-right online content. With the blind support of Trump and active movement on Facebook, the Epoch Times has become a powerful media force imbued with prejudice. The New York Times referred to The Epoch Times precisely as “a global-scale misinformation machine that has repeatedly pushed fringe narratives into the mainstream” for its long-standing exaggerated, false, and extreme journalism values.