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Twitter removes 170,000 state-backed accounts based in China

It removed over 8,000 state-backed accounts in Turkey and Russia, too.
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Twitter logo displayed on smartphone and keyboard are seen in this double exposure illustration photo taken Krakow, Poland on March 10, 2020. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NurPhoto via Getty Images

In its latest sweep, Twitter has removed 32,242 state-linked accounts with ties to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Russia and Turkey. All of the accounts were suspended for violating Twitter’s platform manipulation policies, the company wrote in a blog post. The accounts will be recorded in an archive of state-linked information operations, which Twitter claims is the only archive of its kind in the industry.

Of the 32,243 accounts removed, 23,750 had ties to the PRC. According to Twitter, they were primarily spreading geopolitical narratives that favored the Communist Party of China and pushing “deceptive narratives” about the political dynamics in Hong Kong. These accounts had another 150,000 accounts designed to act as amplifiers and boost content -- those have been removed but will not be added to the archive.

The accounts linked to the PRC focused heavily on Hong Kong. They also promoted messages about the coronavirus pandemic, Taiwan and an exiled Chinese billionaire, Reuters reports. The accounts reportedly had ties to another state-backed operation that Twitter, Facebook and YouTube removed last year for spreading misinformation about Hong Kong.

A network of 7,340 accounts from Turkey were also removed and archived. Twitter says they were amplifying political narratives favorable to the AK Parti and demonstrated strong support for President Erdogan. Another 1,152 accounts with ties to Current Policy, a Russian media website engaging in state-backed political propaganda, were removed and archived, Twitter says. Those accounts promoted the United Russia party and attacked political dissidents.

This is not the first sweep of state-backed accounts that Twitter has performed. Facebook and Google have also banned misleading and state-backed information campaigns, and Facebook recently began labelling media from state-controlled outlets. Twitter recognizes this is an ongoing issue and says its goal is to “remove bad faith actors, and to advance public understanding of these critical topics.”

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