By Cristiano Lima
Twitter and Facebook today announced takedowns of Chinese government-linked disinformation campaigns that sought to undermine the protests in Hong Kong.
Twitter said in a blog post it has suspended 936 accounts originating in China that were part of a “significant state-backed information operation focused on the situation in Hong Kong,” where protesters have taken to the streets to oppose a bill that would allow local authorities to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China.
“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,” the company said. The accounts were suspended for violating a number of the social network’s policies, including its rules against spam and fake accounts.
The takedown represents a small fraction of the activity discovered by Twitter, however, which said it took down “a larger, spammy network of approximately 200,000 accounts” before they became “substantially active” on the platform. Twitter is banned in China, but the company said some of the accounts were able to circumvent the ban by using virtual private networks, or VPNs.
Working off a tip from Twitter, Facebook cybersecurity chief Nathaniel Gleicher said his company suspended five accounts, seven pages and three groups with “links to individuals associated with the Chinese government” that “frequently posted about local political news and issues including topics like the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.” The pages amassed at least 15,000 followers and the groups at least 2,000 members.