Facebook and Twitter have both announced the removal of China-based accounts as part of what Twitter described as a “state-backed information operation” on social media to undermine the ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong. The move by the social media giants is in reaction to what is believed to be a mobilization of China’s vast propaganda machine against the pro-democracy protests.
Twitter issued a statement saying “We are disclosing a significant state-backed information operation focused on the situation in Hong Kong, specifically the protest movement and their calls for political change.”
Facebook released some posts from the banned accounts – some of which likened the protesters to the terrorist group ISIS, and to cockroaches.
Twitter said they closed down 936 accounts originating from within the People’s Republic of China, that “were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement.”
Facebook also issued a statement saying that it removed seven Pages, three Groups and five Facebook accounts “involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a small network that originated in China and focused on Hong Kong.”
The social media platform, which is blocked in China, said that those behind the campaign “engaged in a number of deceptive tactics, including the use of fake accounts.”
According to Facebook the accounts frequently posted about local political news and issues including topics like the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, while attempting to conceal their identities. The Facebook investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government. Facebook added that some of the accounts were disabled by its automated systems.
Facebook & Twitter Release Posts
Both released some posts from the banned accounts – some of which likened the protesters to the terrorist group ISIS, and to cockroaches.
Twitter changes advertising rules
In a related move, Twitter also said that it will no longer accept advertising from “state-controlled news media entities.” The new policy by Twitter follows reports by Gizmodo and Buzzfeed that showed a surge of paid promotion posts by Chinese government-controlled media outlets such as China Daily and Xinhua which criticized the protests and portrayed them as a result of American interference.
Twitter defined state-controlled media as “financially or editorially controlled by the state.”