Fabricated Huawei Adverts Featuring US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo Mislead Online

Fabricated Huawei Adverts Featuring US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo Mislead Online

Copyright © Agence France-Presse 2017-2023. All rights reserved.

Two mock-ups of ads showing US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo endorsing a cellphone from Chinese tech giant Huawei have been widely shared on social media, embroiled in a growing tech rivalry between the US and China. The ads were digitally created using Raimondo's official photo and press photo and included a fake signature of the official.

"Thanks to Raimundo from the US for supporting Huawei," Simplified Chinese message dated September 16, 2023 on X (formerly Twitter).

The accompanying image shows the ad featuring Raimundo holding Huawei's latest Mate 60 series phones (link saved).

Simplified Chinese text on the left side of the ad reads: "Raimondo is Huawei's global brand ambassador."

Another post shared on Weibo on September 20, 2023 contains another advertisement for the Huawei Mate 60 series and shows Raimundo speaking at a launch event for the mobile device.

“Raimondo personally supports Huawei. This should be widely publicized,” the comment reads.

The Huawei Mate 60 Pro, unveiled in late August 2023 during a visit to Beijing to defuse tensions, was rumored to be equipped with an advanced Chinese-made chip.

The progress in chipmaking came despite sweeping restrictions imposed by the United States starting in 2022 to block China's access to high-quality semiconductors and chip-making equipment, citing national security concerns.

It has also fueled debate over whether efforts to limit China's technological progress are effective.

Raimondo told a congressional hearing in September that he was "concerned" about Huawei's new product launches, but that there was no evidence that the Chinese tech giant could produce advanced chips on a large scale ( archived link ).

The following month, he called the chip's progress "incredibly alarming" and said his agency needed more resources to prevent U.S. export controls from developing Chinese technology, Bloomberg reported (link saved).

The fake ads were posted on Facebook and Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, making similar false claims.

The comments on the posts show that the users of social networks were deceived by the advertisement.

"Hello Raimundo, Huawei is grateful to you." said one user.

"This is a really surprising and surprising result for Huawei." Another user commented:

False advertising

A combined Google search of the reverse image and keywords of the first ad featuring Raimondo's photo showed that it matched the official's profile photo on Wikimedia Commons, the official website of the US Department of Commerce (archived link).

Upon further searching, the same profile photo was found in an archived copy of the Commerce Department website.

Further keyword searches on Douyin reveal a post explaining that Raimondo's fake ad for Huawei was originally created as a joke, using a real ad for another Chinese smartphone brand, Xiaomi, featuring company founder Lei Jun (archived link).

Xiaomi is one of Huawei's main competitors (link saved).

The black jacket seen on AFP Raimundo matches the one worn by Lei in the Xiaomi ad (archived link).

Below is a comparison of screenshots of the fake ad featuring Raimondo (left), Lei Jun's original Xiaomi poster (middle), and Raimondo's profile photo on the Ministry of Commerce website (right):

A reverse image search revealed that the second fake ad incorrectly used a Reuters photo of Raimondo (archived link).

A Reuters photo caption shows Raimondo speaking during an interview with the organization on September 23, 2021.

Below is a screenshot comparing the second fake ad (left) with the Reuters image (right):

A close analysis of the two fake ads revealed that they contained Raimundo's forged signature.

The signatures differ significantly from some of the signed documents Raimondo has shared on social media, including here and here (archived links here and here).

Below is a screenshot comparing the generated signatures (left, center) and the actual signature found in the Raimondo X-split document (right):

Let's look at a real human liver.

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