- The Chinese government has been running a covert social media propaganda campaign to try and undermine the Hong Kong protests.
- Facebook and Twitter said on Monday that they had detected an organised campaign that originated from inside China.
- Mass protests in Hong Kong have been ongoing for weeks over human rights concerns.
Facebook and Twitter have detected a social media propaganda campaign from China targeting protesters in Hong Kong.
On Monday, the two American social media giants announced that they had taken action against a network of accounts on their respective platforms that appear to be coordinated by the Chinese government and aimed at undermining protesters in Hong Kong.
“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 wrote in a blog post. “Based on our intensive investigations, we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation.”
Twitter said it detected 936 accounts originating in China, while Facebook detected five accounts, seven pages, and three groups. “About 15,500accounts followed one or more of these Pages and about 2,200 accounts joined at least one of these Groups,” Facebook added, saying it was tipped off to the activity by Twitter.
The protests in Hong Kong are now in their eleventh week, and were sparked by a proposed extradition bill that would see Hong Kong residents able to be extradited to China, sparking fears that freedoms were being undermined. On Sunday, an estimated 1.7 million people in the city attended protests.
Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms have been the frequent target of state-sponsored propaganda and disinformation campaigns in recent years – most notably Russia’s efforts to sow discord and support Donald Trump during the 2016 US presidential election.
China’s state-sponsored news agency has also been running ads on Twitter, in an apparent effort to undermine the protests and present them at odds with the will of the majority of Hong Kong residents. On Monday, Twitter said it would no longer “allow state-controlled news media entities” to run ads on its social network