Hong Kong, China
Twitter said on Friday that it had removed thousands of “state linked” accounts used by China, Russia and Turkey to attack its own promotions, misinformation or critics.
The largest network ever connected to China, the US social media giant said, included a “highly engaged core” of 23,750 accounts, boosted by more than 150,000 “amplifier” accounts.
The Turkish network was composed of 7,340 accounts while the Russian group was 1,152 strong.
All accounts and their contents have been removed from Twitter but placed on an archive database for researchers.
Twitter said the Chinese network has been detected with the help of systems that used state-linked accounts to divert massive and often violent pro-democracy protests into Hong Kong last August.
The current network was “failing to gain considerable traction” but was “involved in a series of manipulative and coordinated activities”.
Twitter wrote in its analysis, “They were tweeting mainly in Chinese languages and disseminating geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China.”
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) – a Canberra-based think-tank analyzed the dataset ahead of the announcement and said the network was looking primarily to explore ideas within the global Chinese diaspora.
The network did the same for advancing Beijing’s statement on the Hong Kong protests, as well as criticism of the coronovirus epidemic and Taiwan.
ASPI wrote that some of the group later “pivoted” to the US government’s response to curbing racial injustice protests, to create a notion of moral equality with the suppression of protest in Hong Kong.
“While the Chinese Communist Party will not allow Chinese people to use Twitter, our analysis shows that it is happy to use it for publicity and disinformation internationally,” Fergus Hanson, director of ASPI’s Cyber Center written.
Twitter – along with YouTube, Google and Facebook – is banned in China, which uses the “Great Firewall” to clear its Internet and sensor negative information.
In recent years Beijing has focused too much on companies with state media and ambassadors embracing platforms that regular Chinese citizens cannot access.
In its analysis, Twitter stated that the Turkish network was traced in early 2020 and aimed primarily at promoting domestic support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling party.
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Russian accounts were involved in “cross-posting and escalating material in an inhumane, coordinated manner to the political end”, including the ruling United Russia promoting and attacking political dissidents.