DHARAMSALA, 20 Aug: Twitter and Facebook have announced that they had uncovered a campaign by China using social media platforms against pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and announced the shut down of hundreds of fake accounts being used by China to sow political discord at the ongoing mass protest in Hong Kong.
In a development that marked the first instance of tech companies pointing the finger at Beijing for covert efforts to influence messaging around the Hong Kong protests, the social media giants had declared Beijing is directly spearheading and targeting the protest movement in Hong Kong according to media reports.
While Twitter said it was suspending nearly a thousand Chinese accounts and banning advertising from state-owned media companies, citing a “significant state-backed information operation” related to protests in Hong Kong, the Facebook has followed suit by declaring that it was removing five Facebook accounts, seven pages and three groups after being tipped off to the use of “a number of deceptive tactics, including the use of fake accounts,” The Washington Post reported on 19 Aug.
According to the report, the takedowns by Facebook and Twitter reflect the extent to which disinformation has become a global scourge, that it reported far surpassed the once-secret efforts of Russian agents to stoke social unrest in the United States during the 2016 presidential election.
The pages Facebook removed had about 15,500 accounts following one or more, while 2,200 accounts joined at least one of the groups, the report said.
An investigation by Facebook had reportedly found “links to individuals associated with the Chinese government.”
Meanwhile, the 200,000 Chinese accounts Twitter has shutdown were found violating the social networking platform’s terms of service. Additionally, Chinese activity was reported to the FBI.
Twitter and Facebook, both banned in China along with telegram among others were widely used by the protesters in Hong Kong to remain anonymous to avoid being identified and arrested by police authorities.
An estimated 1.7 million protesters staged a peaceful rally in torrential rain as the protest entered 11thweek on Sunday.