Twitter removes China-linked accounts spreading false news

The US social media company suspended 23,750 accounts that were posting pro-Beijing narratives. (File/AFP)
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Updated 12 June 2020

Twitter removes China-linked accounts spreading false news

  • The US social media company suspended 23,750 accounts that were posting pro-Beijing narratives
  • Another 150,000 accounts dedicated to retweeting and amplifying those messages were also removed

LONDON: Twitter has removed a vast network of accounts that it says is linked to the Chinese government and were pushing false information favorable to the country’s communist rulers. Beijing denied involvement Friday and said the company should instead take down accounts smearing China.
The US social media company suspended 23,750 accounts that were posting pro-Beijing narratives, and another 150,000 accounts dedicated to retweeting and amplifying those messages.
The network was engaged “in a range of coordinated and manipulated activities” in predominantly Chinese languages, including praise for China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and “deceptive narratives” about Hong Kong pro-democracy protests, the company said.
The accounts also tweeted about two other topics: Taiwan and Guo Wengui, an exiled billionaire waging a campaign from New York against China’s president and party leader Xi Jinping and his administration. Most had little to no followers and failed to get much attention. The accounts were suspended under Twitter’s manipulation policies, which ban artificial amplification and suppression of information.
Twitter and other social media services like Facebook and YouTube are blocked in China.
“While the Chinese Communist Party won’t allow the Chinese people to use Twitter, our analysis shows it is happy to use it to sow propaganda and disinformation internationally,” said Fergus Hanson, director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Center, which worked with the company on the takedown.
China denied involvement.
“It holds no water at all to equate China’s response to the epidemic with disinformation,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily news briefing on Friday.
“If Twitter wants to make a difference, it should shut down those accounts that have been organized and coordinated to attack and discredit China,” she added.
Twitter also removed more than 1,000 accounts linked to a Russian media website engaging in state-backed political propaganda in Russian, and a network of 7,340 fake or compromised accounts used for “cheerleading” the ruling party in Turkey.


Missing Pakistani TV reporter is found after 72 hours

Updated 24 October 2020

Missing Pakistani TV reporter is found after 72 hours

  • Geo's bureau chief in Karachi said Ali Imran Syed had contacted his wife to say that he had reached his mother’s home
  • Earlier police registered the journalist’s disappearance as an “abduction” case without naming suspects

ISLAMABAD: A reporter working for Pakistan’s leading Geo News television who had gone missing in the southern port city of Karachi has been found, family and colleague said Saturday.
Geo bureau chief in Karachi, Fahim Siddiqi, said Ali Imran Syed had contacted his wife by phone to say that he had reached his mother’s home.
Earlier police registered the journalist’s disappearance as an “abduction” case without naming suspects.
The reporter left home late Friday evening telling his wife that he would be back in half an hour before disappearing for 72 hours.
Recently there have been several cases of Pakistani journalists being detained or abducted for several hours, before being released.
Azhar Abbas, head of the Geo TV, earlier said he has contacted provincial and federal authorities “to help trace the missing reporter” and “ensure his safety.”
Siddiqi said the reporter’s abduction may have been related to his work on recent political events, including the arrest of an opposition leader who is the son-in-law of former premier Nawaz Sharif.
Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said in a tweet no one should “disappear in a democracy”.
Pakistani media has been facing renewed pressure from state agencies that have sought to control the topics covered by the media and even restrict the selection of guests for TV talk shows.
Journalists and press freedom advocates often accuse the Pakistani military and security agencies of pressuring media outlets to prevent critical coverage.
In December last year, a Karachi based reporter with the Express Tribune newspaper, Bilal Farooqi, was arrested on charges of spreading hateful content against the country’s military on social media.
In July, Matiullah Jan was briefly detained. Jan is known for criticism of Pakistan’s military and security agencies.