Twitter cites evidence of ‘a coordinated state-backed operation’ to discredit the protesters and their aims

Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. took down accounts believed to be part of a broader Chinese government campaign of disinformation related to protests in Hong Kong.

On Monday, Twitter said it had suspended 936 accounts that it said represented the most active portions of a “coordinated state-backed operation” to discredit the protesters. The accounts, Twitter said, are part of a network of about 200,000 accounts that the company had flagged and suspended before they were largely active on the social-media platform.

“These accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground,” Twitter wrote in a blog post.

Screenshots of posts from some suspended accounts showed violent encounters between police and protesters and showed images of human faces on bodies of cockroaches, according to Twitter.

Attempts to reach Chinese officials through the country’s embassy in Washington weren’t immediately successful.

Although Twitter is banned in China, many people are able to access it through proxy servers and virtual private networks. Twitter said that some of the latest accounts flagged had accessed its platform from unblocked IP addresses that originated in mainland China.

Facebook said that following a tip from Twitter, it removed five suspect accounts along with seven pages, with a reach of more than 15,000 accounts, and three groups that included more than 2,000 members.

“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government,” Facebook said.

Facebook, which shared its analysis with law enforcement and industry partners, said it took down the pages, groups and accounts “based on their behavior, not the content they posted.”

Read full article here.

Maria Armental – Wall Street Journal – August 19, 2019.

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