The UCLA Anderson School of Management announced Thursday that a collaboration between ProPublica and The New York Times won a Gerald Loeb Award, one of the most prestigious prizes in business and finance journalism.
“How China Spreads Its Propaganda Version of Life for Uyghurs” exposed one of the most elaborate propaganda efforts to date by the Chinese Communist Party to deny its ongoing oppression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
After noticing similarities in dozens of selfie videos purportedly posted on western social media by Uyghurs, portraying happy, productive lives, reporters scoured the internet to compile a database of more than 5,000 similar videos, which suggested a common source. Further reporting confirmed that the campaign was organized by the government: reporters interviewed one man who said his video had been arranged by the local propaganda department; reporters also found government workers in Xinjiang organizing local campaigns denying human rights abuses.
The monthslong investigation by ProPublica and the Times uncovered, in essence, a high-speed propaganda pipeline for Beijing. One that starts with selfie videos denying human rights abuses collected from Uyghurs in Xinjiang, often against their will, and that ends with the purported testimony amplified across the internet by bot networks, state media and China’s wolf warrior diplomats.
After publication, Twitter and YouTube removed many of the accounts identified by ProPublica and the Times as part of their efforts to combat influence operations by foreign governments.
See all of this year’s Loeb Award winners here.