Following news coverage of Chinese government-sponsored media outlets spreading false propaganda targeting the protestors in Hong Kong, Twitter has changed its advertising policy and will not accept advertisements from state-controlled news media. The company has also suspended and disclosed details of 936 accounts that were spreading misinformation discrediting the protests.
As per the updated advertising policy, news media entities that are either financially backed or editorially controlled by the state will be classified as ‘state-controlled media’. Twitter will use sources like Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, Freedom House, the Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index, the European Journalism Centre’s Media Landscapes Report, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and UNESCO to assess whether or not a news media is state-run.
State-sponsored media agencies that deal with entertainment, sports and travel or “taxpayer-funded entities” won’t be affected by this change, until their content is mixed with the news. Media outlets that are affected by this change will be notified directly.
“We will be making policy determinations on the basis of critical issues of media freedom and independence, such as control of editorial content, financial ownership, influence or interference over broadcasters, editors, and journalists, direct and indirect exertion of political pressure, and/or control over the production and distribution process,” Twitter announced.
Chinese government-sponsored accounts exposed
The social network found that all of the 936 accounts that were spreading state propaganda and trying to discredit protesters in Hong Kong originated from China, where Twitter is blocked. While a majority of the accounts used a VPN service to bypass the great firewall, Twitter also found several accounts being accessed from unblocked IP addresses that originated in mainland China. “These accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground. Based on our intensive investigations, we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation,” Twitter explained in a separate announcement.
Twitter lists the following five reasons for the suspension of these accounts: spam, coordinated activity, fake accounts, attributed activity and ban evasion.
“The accounts we are sharing today represent the most active portions of this campaign; a larger, spammy network of approximately 200,000 accounts — many created following our initial suspensions — were proactively suspended before they were substantially active on the service.”
Those interested can check out the account and tweet information of the suspended accounts at the bottom of the page here.
Also read: Has China turned into a dystopian nightmare?
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