Twitter takes down China-linked accounts spreading disinformation

June 14, 2020
Twitter takes down China-linked accounts spreading disinformation 1

Twitter takes down China-linked accounts spreading disinformation

The Twitter brand is seen behind two folks their telephones.

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Photos

Twitter has taken down 1000’s of accounts linked to China that have been a part of a “manipulative and coordinated” marketing campaign to unfold disinformation round matters together with the Hong Kong protests and the coronavirus.

The social media web site mentioned that 23,750 accounts that have been spreading “geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Celebration of China (CCP)” have been eliminated. One other 150,000 accounts designed to spice up that content material have been additionally taken down.

They have been tweeting predominantly in Chinese language languages and have been pushing “misleading narratives concerning the political dynamics in Hong Kong,” Twitter mentioned.

China’s Ministry of Overseas Affairs was not instantly obtainable for remark when contacted by CNBC. 

The state-backed Twitter marketing campaign highlights a shift in ways from Beijing which have change into extra covert and akin to Russia’s disinformation ways on-line, in accordance with the Australian Strategic Coverage Institute (ASPI) suppose tank, which analyzed the lately taken down accounts. 

Twitter’s newest revelation seems to go in opposition to earlier denials from China that it engaged in a disinformation spreading marketing campaign on social media. 

Coronavirus, Hong Kong in focus

Protests in Hong Kong, China’s response to the coronavirus outbreak and Taiwan are among the many matters the state-backed accounts tweeted about. 

“We’ve recognized that this operation continues and has pivoted to attempt to weaponise the US Authorities’s response to present home protests and create the notion of an ethical equivalence with the suppression of protests in Hong Kong,” ASPI mentioned in its report. 

Demonstrations in Hong Kong have been occurring for greater than a 12 months. The folks there have been protesting the proposed nationwide safety regulation from Beijing and the rising affect of the Chinese language central authorities on the semi-autonomous metropolis which enjoys sure freedoms that mainland Chinese language will not be given. Protesters have clashed with police, who typically used strategies reminiscent of tear gasoline to disperse the crowds.

In the meantime, the U.S. protests have been sparked by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by the hands of Minneapolis police. Protesters, who’re campaigning for equal remedy of Black folks, have additionally clashed with police. 

The accounts that Twitter took down additionally centered on China’s response to Covid-19. 

“The tweets on this set centered on cheering on the Chinese language authorities epidemic response, calling for Chinese language and international unity, portray China as a accountable stakeholder within the worldwide atmosphere,” in accordance with Stanford Web Observatory (SIO), which analysed the eliminated accounts.

It’s not the primary time Twitter has acted in opposition to Chinese language state-backed accounts.

In August final 12 months, the social media agency and its rival Fb eliminated accounts they mentioned have been spreading disinformation relating to the protests in Hong Kong on the time. 

‘Caught early’ 

In the end, the accounts “have been largely caught early and failed to realize appreciable traction on the service, sometimes holding low follower accounts and low engagement,” Twitter mentioned. 

However the pattern of Beijing spreading disinformation utilizing western social media platforms, that are blocked in China, is prone to proceed.

“This massive-scale pivot to Western platforms is comparatively new, and we must always anticipate continued evolution and enchancment, given the large resourcing the Chinese language party-state can deliver to bear in aligning state messaging throughout its diplomacy, state media and covert affect operations,” ASPI mentioned. 

“The disruption attributable to Covid-19 has created a permissive atmosphere for the CCP to experiment with overt manipulation of world social media audiences on Western platforms,” it added.

Individually, Twitter additionally mentioned it took down a couple of thousand accounts linked to Russia and Turkey. 

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