The social media platforms have taken down accounts originating within The People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Twitter disclosed that 936 accounts had been removed after purposely and specifically “attempting to sow political discord” in Hong Kong. Twitter explained that following an investigation it was found that the accounts were part of a “coordinate state-backed operation” which undermined the “legitimacy and political positions” of the protest movement.
Although Twitter is blocked in PRC, many accounts had been accessed using VPNs, whilst some accounts were accessed from specific unblocked IP addresses.
In a statement, Twitter said “Covert, manipulative behaviors have no place on our service – they violate the fundamental principles on which our company is built.”
In the statement, Twitter published a series of offending tweets and accounts – many of which were accusing protestors of being violent and had been sponsored by western governments. Additionally, Twitter stated that it would ban all advertisements from state-controlled news media entities.
As well as the 936 specific accounts, Twitter stated that as many as 200,000 other accounts were “proactively” suspended.
Facebook stated that it removed “seven Pages, three Groups and five Facebook accounts” which had been involved in coordinated inauthentic behaviour. They had posted about political news and discussed the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
Through an investigation, Facebook found that the Chinese government were behind this activity and had attempted to conceal their identities.
Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy said:
“We’re constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people. We’re taking down these Pages, Groups and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted.
“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.”
The protests which began in March, followed after a now-suspended bill would have allowed suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial. The bill could target those who speak out against the Chinese government.
Although the bill was suspended in June, the protests have continued to grow and has now turned into a movement demanding democratic reform.
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