What will happen to The Epoch Times, whose chief financial officer is accused of money laundering?

NEW YORK — The arrest of an executive at The Epoch Times in connection with a money laundering scheme this week has focused attention on a media outlet that has largely lived in the shadows since its founding in 2000 and has undergone a transformation during the Trump administration.

Federal prosecutors in New York charged Weidong “Bill” Guan of Secaucus, New Jersey, chief financial officer of The Epoch Times, for directing at least $67 million in criminal proceeds, much of it from fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits, to the company, its subsidiaries and himself. Guan pleaded not guilty but was suspended by The Epoch Times, which agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

The case raises questions about the future of a company that was a major online supporter of Trump and spread conspiracy theories.

The company first started as a newspaper, produces news websites and videos and is now available in 23 languages. The founder, John Tang, is a Chinese-American who practices Falun Gong, a form of meditation and exercise. The Chinese government has denounced, banned, and, according to members, consistently oppressed and abused Falun Gong followers.

While the company has sought to distance its activities from the Falun Gong movement itself, the company has said that it “considers the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners by the Chinese Communist Party and the remarkably heroic ways in which practitioners have responded to the persecution as one of the most underreported stories of the past twenty years.”

It is by no means a single-issue, main-story news organization on its website Wednesday was about the American political primaries from the night before. But The Epoch Times reports regularly and rigorously on the Chinese government; Stories on her website on Wednesday included an opinion piece about the origins of the COVID virus and a look back at the situation Tiananmen Square Massacre on its 35th anniversary. The site also prominently promotes a book by Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi.

The Epoch Times says that “our goal is not to force our perspective on you, but to give you the information you need to make a decision.”

The Epoch Times website currently has testimonials from Trump administration figures Peter Navarro and Sebastian Gorka and U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican from Arizona.

That's a clue. The news organization transformed itself during the Trump years by becoming a site that supported the former president and his causes. It was opportunistic in two ways: The leaders saw in Trump a president they believed would fight the Chinese government, and sensed the opportunity to secure funding from others who believe in the cause, said AJ Bauer, a professor at the University of Alabama studying conservative media. .

In just a few years, the outlet became a partisan powerhouse and “has also created a disinformation machine on a global scale that has repeatedly pushed fringe stories into the mainstream,” The New York Times reported in 2020.

It embraced various conspiracy theories, a lot around COVID. The Epoch Times and affiliates pushed the false narrative that the Obama administration spied on Trump's 2016 campaign and spread theories promoted by the QAnon conspiracy site and claims of voter fraud.

The Epoch Times was particularly aggressive on Facebook through advertising and the creation of several pages that directed social media users to their content. Following an investigation by NBC News, the social media giant was banned in 2019 pro-Trump ads produced by the outlet for violating its advertising policy.

The indictment does not specifically say that these pro-Trump efforts were funded through the alleged criminal scheme. But it was around this time that the money started pouring in. The Epoch Times reported nearly $128 million in revenue for 2021, a stunning increase from $4 million in 2016, according to a federal financial disclosure. The reversal caught the attention of banks, regulators and ultimately federal prosecutors.

According to the federal indictment, much of the money came through the company's “Make Money Online” team, led by Guan. Guan has claimed the windfall was partly due to an increase in subscriptions and donations, the complaint said.

Guan is the only one charged by prosecutors. But the indictment alleges that “others known and unknown” were aware of what was going on, raising questions about whether anyone else at the company could be involved and what it could mean for the future of The Epoch Times. The company did not immediately respond to an inquiry on the subject.

Given the action Facebook took against the company in 2019, it is questionable whether the previously used playbook is relevant for the 2024 campaign. Some avenues to reach people are undoubtedly closed because the social media site is closed less emphasis on news and political contentBauer said.

Conservative figures have certainly noticed the work The Epoch Times has done for their causes. Despite this, the medium has had surprisingly little influence, says Howard Polskin, who monitors conservative media for the website The Righting.

“They don't seem to be setting the news agenda in the right-wing media,” Polskin said. “I don't think right-wing media pay much attention to what they do.”

Bauer agreed. The Epoch Times' influence appears to be largely limited to people for whom opposition to the Chinese government is a primary cause, he said.

“They, like everyone else in the media, are having a hard time finding an audience right now,” Bauer said. “I don't think there are too many people who call The Epoch Times on their computer over their morning coffee to see what they have to say.”

___

David Bauder writes about media for The Associated Press. Follow him up http://twitter.com/dbauder.

Related Posts

  • Business
  • June 22, 2024
  • 3 views
  • 4 minutes Read
CDK Global Cyberattack Leaves Thousands of Car Dealers Spinning Their Wheels

Bel Air dealer among national companies affected by cyber attacks Bel Air dealer among national companies affected by cyber attacks 02:11 Car dealers in the US are floundering after cyber…

  • Business
  • June 21, 2024
  • 2 views
  • 3 minutes Read
Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman hit by regulators

Jane Fraser, CEO of Citigroup, testifies during the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs hearing entitled Annual Oversight of the Nations Largest Banks, at Hart Building on Thursday,…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You Missed

The Florida judge responsible for the secret trial against Trump files a dossier

  • June 22, 2024
The Florida judge responsible for the secret trial against Trump files a dossier

Hacker claims to have 30 million customer details of Australian ticket seller TEG

  • June 22, 2024
Hacker claims to have 30 million customer details of Australian ticket seller TEG

‘Slave Play’ playwright Jeremy O. Harris is on a mission to diversify theater : NPR

  • June 22, 2024
‘Slave Play’ playwright Jeremy O. Harris is on a mission to diversify theater : NPR

Fauci blames Trump's administration staff for feeding him misinformation and hostility

  • June 22, 2024
Fauci blames Trump's administration staff for feeding him misinformation and hostility

CDK Global Cyberattack Leaves Thousands of Car Dealers Spinning Their Wheels

  • June 22, 2024
CDK Global Cyberattack Leaves Thousands of Car Dealers Spinning Their Wheels

Why will Kylian Mbappé wear a mask at Euro 2024 and what are the rules?

  • June 22, 2024
Why will Kylian Mbappé wear a mask at Euro 2024 and what are the rules?

Angel Reese makes WNBA rookie double-double history: NPR

  • June 22, 2024
Angel Reese makes WNBA rookie double-double history: NPR

Refrigerating 'blood oranges' could even make them healthier – a bonus for consumers

  • June 22, 2024
Refrigerating 'blood oranges' could even make them healthier – a bonus for consumers

Why Anthropic's Artifacts May Be This Year's Most Important AI Feature: Interface Battle Reveal

  • June 22, 2024
Why Anthropic's Artifacts May Be This Year's Most Important AI Feature: Interface Battle Reveal

Ecuador vs. Venezuela live stream: Copa America prediction, TV channel, watch online, time, news, odds

  • June 22, 2024
Ecuador vs.  Venezuela live stream: Copa America prediction, TV channel, watch online, time, news, odds

Andrew Miller, State Department expert on Israel-Palestine, resigns amid Gaza war

  • June 22, 2024
Andrew Miller, State Department expert on Israel-Palestine, resigns amid Gaza war