Facebook and Twitter have taken steps to dismantle a state-sponsored social media protest originating from mainland China that sought to plant “discord” in Hong Kong.
Twitter said it has removed 936 accounts that seemed very organised and coordinated as part of the plans to “undermine the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement.” Facebook said Twitter gave it the heads up to take down seven pages, three groups and five Facebook account.
“They frequently posted about local political news and issues including topics like the ongoing protests in Hong Kong,” Nathaniel Gleicher, the head of cybersecurity policy for Facebook said.
Facebook revealed further that the culprits behind the nefarious activities had intended to conceal their identities but their investigations into the matter revealed links that the individuals were associated with the Chinese government.
Twitter said it suspended over 200 thousand accounts organised to spread misinformation before they became “substantially active.”
The social network said it was able to come up with reliable evidence from the intensive investigations that it carried out with claims that every activity is championed by a state-backed operation.
“Specifically, we identified large clusters of accounts behaving in a coordinated manner to amplify messages related to the Hong Kong protests. We will continue to be vigilant, learning from this network and proactively enforcing our policies to serve the public conversation.”
Twitter was heavily criticised over the weekend for allowing China’s Xinhua news agency to sponsor ads on its platform. “Going forward, we will not accept advertising from state-controlled news media entities,” the company said, but noted that the change had nothing to do with the suspended accounts.
Both networks, Facebook and Twitter are blocked by the Chinese government in the mainland, but can be accessible in Hong Kong, where the protests which have plunged the state into a crisis take place.
However, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang defended the rights of the Chinese people and media to make their opinions heard over the Hong Kong protests. He told the daily news briefing that students had the right to express their views.
“What is happening in Hong Kong, and what the truth is, people will naturally have their own judgement. Why is it that China’s official media’s presentation is surely negative or wrong?”
The Hong Kong protests have been the worst challenge for China’s President, Xi Jinping since he emerged power in 2012. The protests started in opposition to a bill that would allow suspects to be sent to the Communist Party controlled courts in mainland for trial. Critics of the bill propose that the act would be used as a target for those speaking against the Chinese government
Social networks are currently under pressure to curtail political campaigns online, ahead of the US presidential election in 2020.