SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter has removed tens of thousands of state-linked accounts used by China, Russia and Turkey to push their own propaganda, sow misinformation or attack critics.
The biggest network uncovered was linked to China, the US social media giant said, comprised of 23,750 accounts that were boosted by a further 150,000 ‘amplifier’ accounts. The Turkish network was made up of 7,340 accounts while the Russian group had 1,152 accounts.
All accounts and their content have been removed from Twitter but have been placed on an archive database for researchers.
Twitter said the Chinese network was detected with the help of systems used to previously delete state-linked accounts last August during pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
It said the current network had “failed to achieve considerable traction” but was “involved in a range of manipulative and coordinated activities”.
“They were tweeting predominantly in Chinese languages and spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China, while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong,” Twitter said.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) analysed the dataset ahead of the announcement and said the network was primarily looking to sway views within the Chinese diaspora.
The network did the same for the coronavirus pandemic and criticising Taiwan as As well as pushing China’s narrative on the Hong Kong protests.
The group also used the US government’s response to racial injustice protests “to create the perception of moral equivalence with the suppression of protest in Hong Kong,” ASPI wrote.
Twitter said the Turkish network was detected in early 2020 and was primarily aimed at boosting domestic support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling party.
The Russian accounts were involved in “cross-posting and amplifying content in an inauthentic, coordinated manner for political ends” including promoting the ruling party and attacking political dissidents.
Twitter is banned in China along with YouTube, Google and Facebook which uses a ‘Great Firewall’ to censor negative information.