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Twitter bans 200,000 Chinese ‘state backed’ accounts spreading propaganda against Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters

President of China Xi Jinping. (Kremlin/Released)
August 19, 2019

Twitter banned 936 accounts as part of a massive 200,000-account campaign connected to the Chinese government for spreading propaganda about Hong Kong.

“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,” Twitter said in a blog post on Monday.

Twitter added that it conducted investigations and gathered evidence to prove that it was “a coordinated state-backed operation” involving the conflict in Hong Kong.

Twitter added that these 936 banned accounts were part of a “larger, spammy network of approximately 200,000 accounts” which were proactively suspended before they could become activated.

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The China-based users employed VPNs to mask their IP addresses, though many were unblocked and revealed their location.

Twitter noted the suspensions were due to “violations of our platform manipulation policies”

Twitter also banned China’s and other state media outlets from purchasing advertisements on the platform, according to a separate announcement released on Monday.

“Going forward, we will not accept advertising from state-controlled news media entities,” Twitter noted.

Twitter provided a tip on the campaign to Facebook, who then banned five accounts, seven pages, and three groups, citing “coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a small network that originated in China and focused on Hong Kong,” according to a press release.

“The individuals behind this campaign engaged in a number of deceptive tactics, including the use of fake accounts — some of which had been already disabled by our automated systems — to manage Pages posing as news organizations, post in Groups, disseminate their content, and also drive people to off-platform news sites,” the Facebook press release added.

The accounted posted frequently about the conflict in Hong Kong while attempting to hide their identities.

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Facebook concluded that the accounts were ran by individuals connected to the Chinese government.

“We’re taking down these Pages, Groups and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted,” Facebook noted. “As with all of these takedowns, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”