Media Moves

Twitter, Facebook delete accounts suspected of spreading Chinese propaganda

August 20, 2019

Posted by Irina Slav

Twitter and Facebook have taken action against what they have said is a deliberate effort by Beijing to spread disinformation about the protests in Hong Kong.

Annie Palmer had the news for CNBC:

Twitter and Facebook have suspended numerous accounts that they say are tied to a Chinese disinformation campaign against pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Twitter said Monday it suspended 936 accounts likely related to the activity. The company said the disinformation campaign was designed to “sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political protest movement on the ground.”

Over the weekend, approximately 1.7 million anti-government protesters gathered in Hong Kong to rally peacefully against the Chinese government, which assumed rule of the former British colony in 1997. Protests erupted in June following a now-suspended bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China.

ZDNet’s Catalin Cimpanu reported the strange IP addresses of the accounts had sparked suspicion:

Twitter said it detected these accounts because they were accessing its service via IP addresses originating in mainland China.

This was an oddity because Twitter is blocked in China by a country-wide firewall known as the Great Firewall, and normal Chinese users would need to use a VPN to bypass this block.

The fact that Chinese users were accessing Twitter from Chinese-based addresses meant these accounts had been specifically allowed by the state.

“Covert, manipulative behaviors have no place on our service – they violate the fundamental principles on which our company is built,” Twitter said in a blog post where it also released downloadable archives with information on all the banned accounts and their associated tweets.

Twitter also said that the 936 accounts it banned today were part of a larger network of over 200,000 profiles that had previously engaged in spam and other coordinated activity, and which Twitter had been banning as the network was being created and expanding.

Furthermore, Twitter also shared its findings with Facebook, which also intervened and removed 5 Facebook accounts, 7 pages and 3 groups from its platform.

Twitter went a step further and banned state media advertising, CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan wrote:

Twitter on Monday announced that it would no longer accept advertisements from “state-controlled news media entities,” though accounts affected by the new rule can still use Twitter as regular users.

The new policy comes hours after the company, along with Facebook, released information they said detailed a covert state-backed social media campaign run from China has sought to undermine ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong.

“We want to protect healthy discourse and open conversation,” Twitter said in a statement posted on its website. “We believe that there is a difference between engaging in conversation with accounts you choose to follow and the content you see from advertisers in your Twitter experience which may be from accounts you’re not currently following.”

The company said the new policy would only apply to “news media entities that are either financially or editorially controlled by the state.” That does not include taxpayer-funded entities, including independent public broadcasters, Twitter said.

Meanwhile, China’s government has fired back.(

The posts were from citizens, including students, who “have the rights to express their opinions and viewpoints,” China’s Foreign spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regularly scheduled press conference in Beijing on Tuesday. 


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