China is using Facebook and Twitter to disseminate disinformation about the Hong Kong protests, according to The New York Times. Accounts that originated in China used the social media sites to characterize protesters as violent.
A China-linked Facebook account recently compared protesters to ISIS fighters. A Twitter account wrote: “We don’t want you radical people in Hong Kong. Just get out of here!”
Both Facebook and Twitter have removed the accounts. Facebook has taken down seven pages, five accounts, and three Facebook Groups while Twitter deleted 936 accounts. Twitter has also said that it would take down tweets posted by state-backed media.
“These accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground,” Twitter said in a statement. “Based on our intensive investigations, we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation.”
Both Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China by the country’s “Great Firewall.” Now, though, it seems that Beijing hopes to use the sites to spread their message beyond the country. The tweets are and posts were often written in English so as to reach a larger audience. Neither Facebook nor Twitter are blocked in Hong Kong.
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Chinese media was doing nothing wrong by voicing their opinions on the demonstrations.
“I think it‘s entirely reasonable for Chinese media to use social media platforms abroad to engage with the public to explain China’s policies and tell China’s story,” Geng said. “I don’t understand why certain companies or certain people have such an intense reaction. Maybe it’s poked holes in their own shortcomings.”
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