The U.S. microblogging and social media company Twitter has suspended 23,750 accounts that were posting pro-Beijing narratives, and another 150,000 accounts dedicated to re-tweeting and amplifying those messages.
The tweets were reportedly linked to the Chinese government and were pushing false information favorable to the country’s communist rulers.
Chinse government has dismissed any involvement in the matter and declared the company should instead take down accounts defaming China.
The propaganda network was involved “in a range of coordinated and manipulated activities” in mostly in Chinese languages, including an appreciation for China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and “deceptive narratives” about Hong Kong pro-democracy protests, Twitter said.
The deleted accounts also tweeted about two other topics: Taiwan and Guo Wengui, a banished billionaire conducting a campaign from New York against China’s president and party leader Xi Jinping and his administration. Most of the accounts had little to no followers and failed to get much attention.
The accounts were barred under Twitter’s manipulation policies, which forbids artificial amplification and suppression of information. Twitter and other social media services like Facebook and YouTube are blocked in China.
Fergus Hanson, Director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre, who worked with Twitter for the takedowns stated that “While the Chinese Communist Party won’t allow the Chinese people to use Twitter, our analysis shows it is happy to use it to sow propaganda and disinformation internationally,”
“It holds no water at all to equate China’s response to the epidemic with disinformation,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily news announcement in Beijing on Friday. She said she wasn’t conscious of Twitter’s takedown and the reason behind it.
“If Twitter wants to make a difference, it should shut down those accounts that have been organized and coordinated to attack and discredit China,” she said, adding that China was the “biggest victim of false information.”
Twitter also excluded more than 1,000 accounts linked to a Russian media website involved in state-backed political propaganda in Russian, and a network of 7,340 fake or compromised accounts used for “cheerleading” the ruling party in Turkey.