Science & Technology

Twitter suspends accounts linked to Beijing influence campaign

San Francisco, US, June 11 (efe-epa).- United States-based social network Twitter said on Thursday that it has suspended 174,000 accounts linked to the Chinese government that were engaged in a coordinated effort to promote narratives favorable to its management of the coronavirus crisis and the Kong Kong pro-democracy protests, among other issues.

The accounts were suspended during the first three months of 2020 “for various violations of our platform manipulation policies,” Twitter said, adding that they contained messages “predominantly in Chinese languages and spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China (CCP), while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong.”

According to the company, the propaganda network failed to have much impact, and most of its tweets ended up being shared by other accounts that were part of the same operation rather than being spread independently by other users.

The social network said that it has found links between this operation and another also carried out by the Chinese government in mid-2019 which had extended to Facebook and YouTube, in addition to Twitter.

“While this network is new, the technical links we used to identify the activity and attribute it to the PRC remain consistent with activity we initially identified and disclosed in August 2019,” Twitter said.

On that occasion, the campaign’s main objective was to influence the perception of the crisis between Beijing and Hong Kong over the question of the city’s autonomy, and had 210 YouTube channels, 200,000 Twitter accounts, and seven pages, three groups and five user accounts on Facebook.

“Based on our intensive investigations, we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation. Specifically, we identified large clusters of accounts behaving in a coordinated manner to amplify messages related to the Hong Kong protests,” the company said at the time.

Twitter is banned by the Beijing government in China — such that people have to connect with the social network using online private networks, although some use unblocked IP addresses to do so.

In addition to the Chinese accounts, Twitter also revealed on Thursday that it has suspended 1,152 accounts linked to a propaganda campaign originating in Russia whose activities “included promoting the United Russia party and attacking political dissidents,” and another 7,340 accounts linked to the Turkish government “being used to amplify political narratives favorable to the AK Parti, and demonstrated strong support for President Erdogan.” EFE-EPA

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