Twitter has made an unprecedented move to single out China for coordinating a disinformation campaign, specifically about Hong Kong. Per the company’s announcement:
- A “spammy network of approximately 200,000 accounts” has been proactively suspended, and Twitter has “reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation.”
- “These accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.”
- 936 of the most active accounts are named, and information on them was publicly released. By SupChina’s count, 326 of the accounts had over 10,000 followers, meaning that this disinformation campaign likely reached many millions of people.
Facebook also singled out China for “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” and removed seven pages, three groups, and five accounts that were posting about Hong Kong.
In another, potentially even more significant move, Twitter announced that it “will not accept advertising from state-controlled news media entities.” Until now, Chinese state media outlets like Xinhua, the People’s Daily, CCTV, China Daily, and the Global Times could — and did — pay massive sums of money to spread government propaganda across the globe via Twitter.
WHAT KIND OF DISINFORMATION?
Here are some examples of the narratives that Chinese state media has been promoting about the Hong Kong protests — and that these spammy accounts have been amplifying:
- The protests are instigated by the CIA, or by unspecified “black hands.”
- The protestors are violent, or even similar to terrorists.
- The protestors are separatists who want to overthrow the government.
But despite an ugly incident at the Hong Kong airport on August 13 in which a state media employee working for the Global Times was abused by protestors, there is no credible evidence to support these claims.