Two of the world’s largest social media companies sounded the alarm this week that China has used their platforms to conduct “coordinated inauthentic behavior” regarding the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, such as spreading misinformation and sowing discord.
Facebook and Twitter said they have suspended hundreds of accounts apparently run by the Chinese government as part of an effort to confuse and disrupt the protests.
Hong Kong has been roiled by protests throughout the summer, originally sparked by outrage over an extradition law that Hong Kong residents say would allow Chinese authorities to effectively “kidnap” them on little evidence. The concern over the law soon ballooned into fear that China plans to throw out its “One Country, Two Systems” policy regarding Hong Kong.
China has vowed a severe response, saying the demonstrators are committing “terrorist activities.”
Facebook said in a statement that it has removed five Facebook accounts and seven pages with a combined approximately 15,500 followers as well as three groups with about 2,200 members.
“The people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves,” Facebook said.
The company said it has shared the results of the investigation, which was sparked by a tip from Twitter, with law enforcement.
Twitter said it shut down 936 accounts originating from within the People’s Republic of China that were involved in a “coordinated state-backed operation” to “sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.”
“Covert, manipulative behaviors have no place on our service,” Twitter said. “These deceptive strategies have been around for far longer than Twitter has existed … We are committed to understanding and combating how bad-faith actors use our services.”
The Chinese government currently blocks Facebook and Twitter on the mainland, but Hong Kong residents can access the sites.