- Twitter users spotted sponsored posts from Chinese state media criticising the ongoing Hong Kong protests.
- The sponsored posts described the protests as violent and destructive and portrayed Hong Kong citizens as in favour of ending them.
- People in Hong Kong have been protesting the Chinese government for 11 weeks. Organisers say as many as 1.7 million people joined a peaceful rally on Sunday.
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Twitter has been distributing sponsored posts from Chinese state media criticising the Hong Kong protests, as spotted by the account of Pinboard, a social-media bookmarking site run by the entrepreneur and developer Maciej Ceglowski.
The posts were from China’s state-run Xinhua news agency. “Two months on, the escalating violence in Hong Kong has taken a heavy toll on the social order,” one tweet reads, adding that “all walks of life in Hong Kong called for a brake to be put on the blatant violence and for order to be restored.”
A second sponsored tweet portrayed the public sentiment in Hong Kong as at odds with the protests, saying that “Hong Kong citizens call for stopping violence, ending chaos and restoring order in the city,” while another pushed a video that described Hong Kong’s economy as deteriorating, though it did not explicitly link this to the protests.
Every day I go out and see stuff with my own eyes, and then I go to report it on Twitter and see promoted tweets saying the opposite of what I saw. Twitter is taking money from Chinese propaganda outfits and running these promoted tweets against the top Hong Kong protest hashtags pic.twitter.com/6Wb0Km6GOb
— Pinboard (@Pinboard) August 17, 2019
The Hong Kong protests, now in their 11th week, were sparked by a now-shelved bill that would have allowed citizens to be extradited to and tried in mainland China, where they would not be privy to the civil-rights protections preserved in Hong Kong.
Organisers said that as many as 1.7 million people were out in force in a peaceful protest on Sunday, according to CNN.
Twitter is banned in mainland China, blocked by the country’s “Great Firewall” along with Facebook, Google, and numerous other US tech companies.
Ceglowski, who attended the protests, described the promoted tweets from the Chinese outlet as “lies.”
“I just came home from a completely peaceful march where possibly a million Hong Kong residents came out, with no police in sight, to call for basic democratic rights,” he wrote. “What greets me is straight up lies from Xinhua about ‘bands of thugs’, courtesy of Twitter advertising.”
It’s not clear how long the sponsored posts have been running, or exactly where in the world they have been distributed using Twitter’s marketing tools.
Twitter was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider.
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