Twitter Inc. announced through a blog post on 12th June that the company had permanently suspended over 170K Twitter profiles. “Accounts were politically motivated, and favored by the Chinese government”, says the twitter blog post.
Twitter along with its research partners Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) observed that out of 170K accounts, 23750 were highly engaged through a core network where their main motive was to spread the deceptive narratives of HongKong Protests, COVID 19, and other topics. The rest 150K accounts were “booster” accounts, which amplified those narratives put forward by the core accounts, via likes and retweets.
The 23,750 accounts collectively tweeted 348,608 times, according to the researchers at Stanford.“The accounts had favors from the Peoples Republic of China (PRC)” as per Twitter.
“Accounts were taken down in violation of the platform’s manipulation policies”, says Twitter.
How they worked ??
Although Twitter is Officially blocked in China, it can still be accessed using VPN. Researchers found that the legitimate older accounts were hacked or bought as part of this campaign. The tweets contained images with mainly Chinese texts. While the primary targets of this campaign were Chinese-speaking citizens outside China, it also had much influence over its Administrative Region in Hong Kong. 78.5% of the suspended accounts had no followers and 95% had less than 8 followers, but they had a high-level engagement with tweets.
Previously Twitter had disclosed 936 accounts operated within China, in August last year. These accounts were operated specifically to spread political disputes in Hong Kong.
Along with China, Twitter also released details of 1152 accounts operating in Russia and 7340 accounts in Turkey, claimed that both are backed up by ulterior motives of the governments.
Twitter’s takedown is definitely a praiseworthy step. It was a successful attempt to thwart the hidden agendas of governments using social media.