Twitter Removes Over 170,000 Chinese Influence Campaign Accounts

Also removed: networks based in Turkey and Russia

Twitter HQ
Twitter's headquarters in 2016.
Tobias Kleinlercher/Creative Commons

Over the course of the last few years, Twitter has taken action repeatedly to remove accounts and posts that have been outside of the boundaries of approved behavior on the site. This has included everything from Russian bots to people engaged in hateful speech. This week, the social media platform took dramatic action against another group of accounts engaged in disinformation — and, according to a new report, associated with the Chinese government.

Writing at The Guardian, Josh Taylor reports that Twitter deleted over 170,000 accounts which appeared to be part of a campaign that was “targeted at Chinese-speaking audiences outside the country.” Twitter announced the account deletions via a press release issued on Thursday, which offered more context:

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 favorable to the Communist Party of China (CCP), while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong.

Taylor’s report at The Guardian notes that the network also addressed COVID-19 and Taiwan, based on a report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

China wasn’t the only country alluded to in Twitter’s report: the company mentioned that they had also removed thousands of accounts associated with networks based in Russia and Turkey. The report concludes with a statement of what the company’s next steps will be, including hosting an online conference and working more closely with academic institutions covering online disinformation. With political turbulence and a pandemic circulating around the globe, it’s an important step.

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