In Hong Kong and Overseas, China’s Influence Operations Come Under New Scrutiny

In Hong Kong and Overseas, China’s Influence Operations Come Under New Scrutiny
Pro-China supporters wave a Chinese national flag to support police during a rally in Hong Kong, Aug. 17, 2019 (AP photo by Vincent Yu).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China.

Facebook and Twitter took unprecedented action against China on Monday, taking down Chinese government-linked accounts that were being used to sow political discord in Hong Kong and turn global public opinion against anti-government protesters there. It was the first time either social media company had blamed the Chinese government for running disinformation operations.

Twitter suspended more than 200,000 accounts that it suspected of being tied to a Chinese government-led influence operation. Following reports that Twitter and Facebook were promoting harmful content from Chinese state-run outlets, Twitter also banned ads from state media entities. Facebook, acting on a tip received from Twitter, removed seven pages, three groups and five accounts, but stopped short of banning ads from state media. Many of the posts were written in English and appeared to target a global audience.

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang denied the government’s involvement in the influence campaign, saying that it was the work of Chinese students and others living abroad who “have the right to express their point of view.” He also said it was “entirely reasonable for Chinese media to use social media platforms abroad to engage with the public to explain China’s policies and tell China’s story.”

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