“In its purge of Iranian accounts, Twitter suspended independent journalists and activists who don't work for but who support their government. Twitter did the same in Venezuela several times. Its purge today of Chinese accounts will likely do the same.”
Twitter announced on Monday that they had banned a number of Chinese media outlets from running adverts on the site, following their criticism of the opposition protests in Hong Kong. The platform has also deleted almost 1000 individual user accounts who they claim are ‘Chinese bots’. Twitter is working with CIA linked NGO ‘Freedom House’, among others, to determine which accounts are to face bans.
In an official statement, Twitter announced they will be closing 936 accounts based in the Chinese mainland, accusing said accounts of “attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.”
Then in a separate statement, also posted Monday, Twitter announced that it would ban ‘state media’ from advertising and paying for promoted tweets.
“Going forward, we will not accept advertising from state-controlled news media entities. Any affected accounts will be free to continue to use Twitter to engage in public conversation, just not our advertising products.”
Twitter is acting decidedly and bluntly against the governments of China, Iran and Venezuela. The new algorithms are absolutely gruesome with admins now inundating us with Democratic Party accounts and the accounts of Washington-backed persons and groups abroad. https://t.co/zdB3b3TxFj— Camila (@camilateleSUR) August 19, 2019
Though the second statement does not mention China, it follows a Buzzfeed ‘investigation’ that said 5 Chinese state media outlets have paid for promoted tweets. Bizarrely, Twitter's statement said that the ban will not affect “taxpayer-funded entities”, Twitter will be deciding what constitutes ‘state media’ by contracting, among others, the highly partisan US organization ‘Freedom House’, an NGO linked to the CIA.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang defended the right of Chinese outlets to post and to promote tweets, like any other news organizations around the world. He said, “What is happening in Hong Kong, and what the truth is, people will naturally have their own judgment. Why is it that China’s official media’s presentation is surely negative or wrong?”
Twitter has not so far accused Chinese accounts of disseminating false news, this is in stark contrast to some large accounts supporting the Hong Kong protests which a recent AFP investigation found to be repeatedly sharing fake and old images purporting to show Chinese 'repression'. A large number of such posts were debunked, but nevertheless gained huge circulation within Hong Kong.
This is not the first time Twitter has been accused of censoring accounts critical of US foreign policy aims. Responding to Twitter’s statement, journalist Ben Norton pointed out that similar operations were carried out against Iranian and Venezuelan accounts, saying, “In its purge of Iranian accounts, Twitter suspended independent journalists and activists who don't work for but who support their government. Twitter did the same in Venezuela several times. Its purge today of Chinese accounts will likely do the same.”
The controversy follows months of protests in Hong Kong, in which opposition demonstrators have expressed anger at local authorities who they believe to be too close to Beijing. Despite being part of China, the area has a degree of autonomy from the mainland, and some do not identify with Beijing, with many protesters waving flags of the U.K. and the U.S., rather than the red flag of Hong Kong. Some leaders of the movement have also held meetings with U.S. diplomats and received large grants from the ‘National Endowment of Democracy’, another CIA linked organization.
Despite the protests receiving frequent coverage in Western media, a poll published Sunday showed a large majority of Hong Kong residents are against any split from China, a demand that is common among demonstrators.