Twitter has removed more than 182,000 accounts that were involved in propaganda targeting political movements and dissidents. The company has suspended these accounts, mainly operating from China, due to various violations of Twitter’s manipulation policies. Moreover, some accounts from Russia and Turkey that amplified deceptive narrative and propaganda for their government and political parties have also been disclosed and taken down.
In an official blog post shared on 12th of June, the company has announced it had dismantled 23,750 Chinese state-linked content creator accounts run by a highly engaged core network, and an additional 150,000 ‘amplifier’ accounts with little to no follower count. These amplifier accounts were used to promote and inflate the unlawful content tweeted by core accounts.
According to Twitter, “they were tweeting predominantly in Chinese languages and spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China (CCP) while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong.”
These Twitter accounts were posting on the topic of Hong Kong protests, COVID-19, Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, and Taiwan. The narrative in tweets focused on countering pro-democracy protests and coronavirus usage as a weapon against Hong Kong protesters. The other tweets were against the billionaire fugitive Guo Wengui of having a business contract with Steve Bannon, the former White House Chief Strategist.
Renee DiResta, a Standford Internet Observatory – SIO researcher, said the accounts that were involved in spreading wrong information about coronavirus were made in late January and became more active when the virus got declared as a pandemic. The tweets praised the Chinese response to contain the coronavirus.
“While this network is new, the technical links we used to identify the activity and attribute it to the PRC remain consistent with the activity we initially identified and disclosed in August 2019. Our proactive removal of this network from Twitter is a direct result of the technical efforts we instituted after thoroughly studying and investigating past coordinated information operations from the PRC,” Twitter said in the official blog post.
Twitter removed accounts from Russia and Turkey
A large number of accounts taken down originated from Russia and Turkey, mainly focusing on local audiences in those countries.
As per official figures, Twitter has disclosed 1,152 accounts from Russia that were involved in promoting the ‘United Russia’ party and attacking political dissidents.
On the other hand, Twitter also disclosed 7,340 accounts from Turkey, who were amplifying political narratives favorable to the AK Party and supporting President Erdogan.
“These compromised accounts have been repeated targets of account hacking and takeover efforts by the state actors identified above. The broader network was also used for commercial activities, such as cryptocurrency-related spam,” Twitter mentioned in the statement.
The social company, Twitter, has shared relevent data from the disclousre with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre (ASPI-ICPC) and Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO).
“While the Chinese Communist Party won’t allow the Chinese people to use Twitter, our analysis shows it is happy to use it to sow propaganda and disinformation internationally,” said Fergus Hanson, director of the ASPI.
Twitter, along with other social media sites like Facebook and YouTube, is blocked in China, where the government has enforced strict censorship laws.