Twitter ads are being used by the Chinese government to spread propaganda via state-backed Xinhua News Agency, aimed at discrediting protesters in Hong Kong.
Pinboard, a bookmarking service, found several instances of ads — also known as ‘promoted tweets’ — being run by China Xinhua News (@XHNews on Twitter), which propagate a pro-China stance and call for the end of the protests in the autonomous region of Hong Kong.
The bill introduced earlier this year in April that allowed the government to deport people accused of crimes against mainland China was the leading cause of the eruption of protests across Hong Kong. This bill puts activists and journalists in harm’s way as the Chinese government doesn’t entertain criticism, and since Hong Kong enjoys an independent judiciary and legal system, the bill is the government’s way of breaking the ‘one country, two systems’ model. It was later suspended in July, but the Chinese government is trying everything it can to put the bill back in place.
This isn’t an isolated incident where a political party or government has used the power of social media for their gains. It’s being used by governments worldwide, as has been reported widely. Ironically, Twitter is blocked by the great firewall of China yet its serving as a hotbed for spreading propaganda. While this incident doesn’t come as a surprise given the history of the Chinese government which clamps down on any ideas of dissent, use of social media for spreading political propaganda has become an increasingly popular tool for political parties.
Every day I go out and see stuff with my own eyes, and then I go to report it on Twitter and see promoted tweets saying the opposite of what I saw. Twitter is taking money from Chinese propaganda outfits and running these promoted tweets against the top Hong Kong protest hashtags pic.twitter.com/6Wb0Km6GOb
— Pinboard (@Pinboard) August 17, 2019
China exercises immense control over their citizens with surveillance and censorship, including on the Internet (read: The Great Firewall), keeps a social score of all the people, has arrays of CCTV cameras installed, and according to news reports from this morning, QR code payments are to be replaced with facial recognition payments very soon.
But the buck doesn’t stop there. China has its internet ecosystem, different apps, social networks and even search engine as the usual ones that we use aren’t allowed there. The plight of the Uighurs — natives of the Xinjiang region of China — who are are being kept as prisoners in concentration camps is yet another traumatic incident that’ll haunt generations to come. Hemant wrote about this and more in his report on our website.