Beijing Accused of Fake News Plot as Twitter Bans 1000 Accounts

Twitter and Facebook have been forced to suspend nearly 1000 accounts after revealing a coordinated state-sponsored attempt by China to spread misinformation about the unrest in Hong Kong.

The news appears to indicate the first reported attempt by Beijing to engage in tactics more infamously deployed by the Putin administration in trying to influence opinion and amplify specific messages.

The accounts were banned for a range of policy violations including: spam, coordinated activity, fake accounts, attributed activity and ban evasion.

“As Twitter is blocked in PRC, many of these accounts accessed Twitter using VPNs. However, some accounts accessed Twitter from specific unblocked IP addresses originating in mainland China,” the social network said in a blog post on Monday.

“The accounts we are sharing today represent the most active portions of this campaign; a larger, spammy network of approximately 200,000 accounts — many created following our initial suspensions — were proactively suspended before they were substantially active on the service.”

In an unusual step, Twitter also released two large troves of information about the blocked accounts, containing their complete tweet and user information.

“Covert, manipulative behaviors have no place on our service — they violate the fundamental principles on which our company is built. As we have said before, it is clear that information operations and coordinated inauthentic behavior will not cease,” it concluded.

“These deceptive strategies have been around for far longer than Twitter has existed. They adapt and change as the geopolitical terrain evolves worldwide and as new technologies emerge. For our part, we are committed to understanding and combating how bad-faith actors use our services.”

The social network also shared intelligence on the inauthentic behavior with Facebook, which reacted by removing seven Pages, three Groups and five Facebook accounts as part of a small network focused on the Hong Kong protests.

Some of the content that was posted likened the protesters to cockroaches and ISIS fighters.

Citizens from the former British colony have been protesting in often violent clashes with the police for several weeks now, with millions taking to the streets on occasion. This followed the unelected local government’s attempts to introduce a law which would have allowed suspects in criminal cases to be extradited to China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party.

Contrary to attempts by the Chinese government to portray them as violent secessionists backed by foreign governments like the US, most protesters are railing only against the single-party autocratic system of rule in China and simply want free and fair democratic elections.

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