Twitter announced that it has shut down over 1,70,000 accounts for ‘spreading geopolitical narratives favorable’ to the Chinese government.
According to CNN, experts working with Twitter said that these accounts were pushing deceptive narratives around the Hong Kong protests, COVID-19, and other topics.
The company said that accounts were ‘spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China’ and were removed for violating its platform manipulation policies.
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, said that many of these accounts were set up in January and had been engaged in posting about COVID-19.
“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 US and Hong Kong activists.”
Twitter said it had identified 23,750 accounts as a ‘highly engaged core network’ that were used to tweet content favorable to China and a further 150,000 accounts that were used to amplify the content, for example, by retweeting content posted by core accounts.
The 23,750 accounts collectively tweeted 348,608 times, according to the researchers at Stanford.
In August 2019, Twitter removed nearly 1,000 accounts believed to be operating within mainland China for “deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong.”
The company also announced Thursday that it had shut down accounts tied to Russia and Turkey.
Twitter found more than 1,000 accounts that promoted the ruling United Russia party.
In Turkey, a network of 7,340 accounts posted content favorable of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party.
(With ANI inputs)