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Twitter deletes China’s propaganda network


Twitter has deleted more than 170,000 accounts linked to a Chinese government disinformation campaign that targeted Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and sought to discredit the United States.

On Friday, the revelation came as fellow American tech company, video messaging app Zoom, acceded to Beijing’s demands that it close accounts of US and Hong Kong activists who gathered on the popular chat app to mark the deadly Tiananmen crackdown.

Along with YouTube, Google and Facebook, Twitter is banned in China, which uses a “Great Firewall” to restrict access to news and information.

But Chinese diplomats and state media have flocked to such platforms in recent years to push Beijing’s narrative.

Researchers and some Western governments have voiced fears that China deploys networks of state-controlled or state-linked accounts that masquerade as genuine users to spread government messaging or disinformation.

Twitter revealed it had dismantled “state-linked” networks run by a “highly engaged core” of 23,750 accounts and boosted by a further 150,000 “amplifier” accounts.

“They were tweeting predominantly in Chinese languages and spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China, while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong,” Twitter wrote in its analysis.

‘Propaganda’

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) analyzed the dataset ahead of the announcement and said the network was primarily looking to sway views within the global Chinese diaspora. 

As well as pushing Beijing’s narrative on the Hong Kong protests, the network did the same for the coronavirus pandemic and criticizing Taiwan.

Some of the group also later “pivoted” to the US government’s response to seething racial injustice protests “to create the perception of moral equivalence with the suppression of protests in Hong Kong,” ASPI wrote.



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