In a very recent development, Twitter has deleted more than 170,000 accounts that it claims were part of an operation to spread pro-China messages and propaganda. Some of these posts comprised false information with regards to COVID-19.
According to the social media company, a “core network” of 23,750 extremely active accounts have been removed, along with 150,000 “amplifier accounts”. In a similar vein, over a thousand Russian misinformation accounts have also been shut down.
These Chinese accounts taken down by Twitter are apparently linked to an earlier state-sponsored operation instigated alongside Facebook and YouTube last year. That operation had been spreading messages about the turbulent political situation in Hong Kong.
“While this network is new, the technical links we used to identify the activity and attribute it to the PRC remain consistent with activity we initially identified and disclosed in August 2019,” Twitter stated on its company blog.
While the 23,750 deleted accounts were the main ones, the other 150,000 accounts also came under suspicion as they were identified as helping boost the spread and outreach of those messages online. Fortunately, Twitter states that both of the interconnected accounts were caught early thus they failed to achieve enough engagement with the masses.
“In general, this entire network was involved in a range of manipulative and coordinated activities. They were tweeting predominantly in Chinese languages and spreading geopolitical narratives favourable to the Communist Party of China (CCP), while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong,” the blog added.
Twitter has also taken action to remove a set of 1,152 accounts concerned with “state-backed political propaganda within Russia”. The main activities performed by these accounts include the promotion of the United Russia party and attacking political opponents.