AFP/ San Francisco
Twitter said yesterday that it had shut down nearly 3,500 accounts that were posting pro-government propaganda in six countries, including China and Russia.
The vast majority of the accounts that were shut down were part of a network that “amplified Chinese Communist Party narratives related to the treatment of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang”, Twitter said in a statement.
China faces accusations of grave human rights violations against the ethnic minority in the northwestern province, where experts have estimated that more than 1mn people are incarcerated in camps.
Aside from 2,048 accounts linked to the pro-Beijing campaign, Twitter also shut down 112 accounts connected to a company named Changyu Culture, linked to Xinjiang’s regional government.
The move came a day after Facebook’s parent company Meta said it had shut down more than 500 accounts that were part of a China-linked influence campaign relating to coronavirus (Covid-19).
Beyond China, Twitter also shuttered 16 accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company labelled a “troll farm” by critics, which runs pro-government online influence campaigns.
“The operation relied on a mix of inauthentic and real accounts to introduce a pro-Russia viewpoint into Central African political discourse,” Twitter said.
Russia has wielded increasing influence in the Central African Republic since 2018 when it sent a large contingent of “instructors” to train the army.
“We also removed a network of 50 accounts that attacked the civilian Libyan government and actors that support it, while voicing significant support for Russia’s geopolitical position in Libya and Syria,” Twitter added.
The banned accounts include 276 that shared pro-government content in Mexico, and “277 Venezuelan accounts that amplified accounts, hashtags and topics in support of the government and its official narratives”.
In Africa, 268 accounts were shut down for targeting civil rights group FichuaTanzania, along with 418 that “engaged in co-ordinated inauthentic activity” in Uganda to promote President Yoweri Museveni.
Like other social media giants, Twitter has faced criticism over failures to tackle misinformation on its platform as well as racist, sexist and homophobic posts, among other forms of hate speech.
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