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The Truth Is Dying: The Epoch Times Rules the World

Since 2016, the news site Epoch Times has been gaining attention for its pro-Trump leanings. It has existed for two decades, but only in recent years has it gone from a fringe alt-news to a major presence on social media through operation.

The Epoch Times was founded in 2000 by John Tang, a follower of the cult Falun Gong, and other Chinese-Americans affiliated with Falun Gong. But it is only one part of a vast international multimedia organization, the Epoch Times Media Group, which also owns New Tang Dynasty Television (NTD TV) and Sound of Hope Radio. These companies have been transformed in recent years into pro-Trump mouthpieces full of misinformation.

The Epoch Times, on its website, says they are “dedicated to finding the truth through insightful and independent journalism. But in fact it could be considered “dedicated to the demise of truth through disturbing misinformation and overt political bias.”

Opportunistic Rehash of Disinformation and Conspiracy Narratives


Media watchdog Ad Fontes Media, which aims to combat political polarization and media bias, rated the Epoch Times in the “Hyper-Partisan Right” category of bias and as “Unreliable and Problematic” in terms of reliability.

This is no surprise—as the secretive newspaper has been publishing vitriolic political views, anti-science and online conspiracy theories and promoting Donald Trump’s anti-immigration policies. Joan Donovan, Research Director at Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University, calls these a dark propaganda influence campaign that obscures their true origins. Namely, the cult Falun Gong: Its founder, Li Hongzhi, claims he can levitate and sometimes says aliens are a corrupting influence on humans. The group also condemns homosexuality and feminism. Although Falun Gong has repeatedly denied any connection to the Epoch Times, its founder, Li Hongzhi, calls it “our media.”

The Epoch Times has published climate change denial stories and run op-eds that distort research. An article titled “Study Finds Sun – Not CO2 – May Be Behind Global Warming” has been debunked by climate scientists. Steve Klett, a staff writer for the Epoch Times, said climate change was part of a set of social issues that the outlet tailors to conservative views, regardless of the scientific facts. He said his colleagues were not allowed to cover gay rights or pop music, and advocating climate change denial is part of the Epoch Times’ shift to more extreme conservatism. Its goal, he said, was to be a counterweight to the mainstream media. Ming Xia, a political science professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, said it is not surprising that an organization associated with Falun Gong would deny climate change because it teaches anti-science principles, including a rejection of modern medicine. And the COVID-19 disinformation and anti-vaccine propaganda that abounds on the site is even more commonplace.

The site has also been one of the most prominent promoters of “Spygate,” a baseless conspiracy theory that claims Obama administration officials illegally spied on Trump’s 2016 campaign. And the Epoch Times-related publications and programs promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory and spread distorted claims about election fraud and the Black Lives Matter movement.

But what is alarming is that a report released by Facebook shows that the Epoch Times received 44.2 million views for a page that offers to sign up subscribers between April and June 2021 alone, meaning that all of these disinformation and conspiracy narratives have received an extremely large amount of exposure and accessed to many internet users. The Epoch Times is holding the world hostage with its rapidly growing influence by clinging to the far right. reality. It has become a nascent force in the digital world of disinformation.

Public tax records show the Epoch Times has flourished financially since turning to far-right politics. The Epoch Times Association reported revenue of $15.5 million in 2019, $12.5 million in 2018, $8.1 million in 2017 and only $3.9 million in 2016.

But Angelo Carusone, an analyst at media watchdog group Media Matters, said, “They go where the center for the strongest infrastructure or possibility of getting as much audience and influence and reach is”, adding that this complexity makes the Epoch Times “completely different and difficult to understand.” This is because the Epoch Times does not use the same measures of success as other media outlets that may be driven by money or a particular political agenda. Instead, according to Carusone, the Epoch Times’ success is measured only by influence.

Perhaps, the only purpose of the Epoch Times and the Falun Gong is to achieve a real distortion of reality through influence.


Selling User Information

Peddling disinformation and conspiracy theories is not the only thing that the Epoch Times does; it also peddles the privacy of its users. In July 2022, U.S. courts heard two class action lawsuits involving multiple victims of consumer privacy infringement against the same defendant, The Epoch Times Co., Ltd.

It is alleged that the Epoch Times programmed its website with a Facebook Pixel to intentionally choose to track users’ PII and send it to Facebook. When subscribers completed the subscription program and watched videos on its website, the Epoch Times disclosed the subscriber’s FID and the name, URL, and user’s FID of the specific video content watched by the subscriber to Facebook through Facebook Pixel. And Epoch Times digital subscribers or account holders who log in and watch Epoch Times videos are not notified of anyone who views the shared information. It collects their personal viewing information and profits from disclosing that of its digital subscribers to Facebook. In addition, any ordinary person can know the identity of a digital subscriber and the specific video or media content he has requested on the Epoch Times website.

This means that for the hundreds of thousands of digital subscribers to the Epoch Times, the information leaked could be found by everyone across the internet when you browse any information on the Epoch Times and anyone could follow the clues to find your Facebook account, which clearly exceeds the rights of the platform itself.

It’s hard to ask every American to be media literate in identifying true and false information, and it’s difficult to expose and disprove every fake news story, but there is no doubt that to protect American democracy and American citizens and to ensure that reality is based on facts and science, the foreign, conspiratorial, fake news site that divides us, the Epoch Times, should first be given no place in our communities.

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