Twitter Suspends Hundreds of Accounts Linked to China Propaganda on Hong Kong Protests

Hong Kong Protests

Hong Kong ProtestsBrief background

The 2019 Hong Kong protests have been going on in the last couple of weeks. The demonstrations, which have since been amplified across key media outlets in the world were fueled by February 2019 extradition bill, which is thought to give Beijing powers to rightfully or otherwise, capture any person who enters the Chinese territory, and send them to mainland China on charges that some think may not be valid, hence creating an avenue for abuse.

But why?

The proposed amendment, also referred to as the Fugitive bill, if approved, will give the government powers to extradite both Chinese nationals and folks from other countries that do not have a formal agreement with Hong Kong. At the moment, Hong Kong is said to have extradition agreements with 20 countries, including superpowers like the USA.

The protests

The demonstrations in the streets of Hong Kong are some of the world’s biggest: this past Sunday, it is estimated that up to 1.7 million locals took to the streets to rally against the bill, even enduring heavy downpour with black umbrellas. The numbers went against a police ban and stretched up to 4 kilometres in Hong Kong’s CBD. Their aim? They want the controversial bill expunged – and promise not to down their tools until the government gives in to their demands.

Twitter’s controversial role in the protests

Over the weekend, it was noted that some media outlets linked to the Chinese communist government were pushing messages that miscommunicated issues on the ground. These state machines purchased ads on Twitter to broadcast promoted messages that are viewed by millions of people on the social media platform.

Twitter has been under fire for ‘taking money’ from Chinese propagandists, who are allegedly trying to paint a different picture of the peaceful demos in Hong Kong.

According to Pinboard, ‘if these peaceful, extremely disciplined protestors who enjoy the clear backing of the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong residents can be discredited, it will be easier to crack down.’

Twitter has been asked not to take part in this form of vice.

Twitter’s response

Twitter has acknowledged that there are some China-backed accounts that have been using the platform via VPN (Twitter is blocked in China) to spread misinformation about genuine political issues brought to light following the Fugitive Bill.

At the moment, about 936 accounts have been identified in the campaign.

“Overall, 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.”

“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,” reads a statement from Twitter.

Twitter has since suspended the accounts.

However, the linked tweets above show promoted content from China Xinhua News, which Twitter does not acknowledge it helped promote on its popular platform.

Nevertheless, the fact that Twitter has bowed to public pressure showcases the power of the people in pointing out a mistake, although the social media giant is not entirely upfront about this.


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