TWITTER SHUTS DOWN 170,000 ACCOUNTS TIED TO CHINESE GOV’T
Twitter announced Thursday (Friday, June 12, 2020 in Manila) that it had shut down more than 170,000 accounts tied to the Chinese government, Donie O’Sullivan wrote for CNN Business late on June 12.) Experts working with Twitter who reviewed the accounts said they pushed deceptive narratives around the Hong Kong protests, COVID-19 and other topics.
The company said the accounts were "spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China" and were removed for violating its platform manipulation policies. Twitter's takedown is the latest development in Silicon Valley's attempt to thwart governments using social media platforms to push narratives in their favor.
Twitter is officially blocked in China, though many people in the country are able to access it using a VPN. Among the targets of the Chinese campaign were overseas Chinese "in an effort to exploit their capacity to extend the party-state's influence," according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a group Twitter worked with to analyze the accounts. Twitter said the accounts tweeted "predominantly in Chinese languages."
Renee DiResta, research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, who also analyzed the accounts, said that many of those that posted about Covid-19 throughout the spring had only been set up in late January. "Narratives around Covid," the SIO wrote in its analysis, "praise China's response to the virus while tweets also use the pandemic to antagonize the U.S. and Hong Kong activists." Twitter said it had identified 23,750 accounts it described as a "highly engaged core network" that were used to tweet content favorable to Beijing and a further 150,000 accounts that were used to amplify the content, for example, by retweeting content posted by core accounts.