Microblogging platform Twitter has returned to more conventional forms of censorship by removing accounts found to be part of state-linked information operations.
In an announcement titled Disclosing networks of state-linked information operations we’ve removed, Twitter revealed that is had permanently removed 32,242 accounts if determined to be run by foreign governments to further their dastardly agendas. 23,750 of them have been linked to the Chinese state (PRC) and have been added to Twitter’s archive of such accounts.
“Today’s PRC disclosure relates to two interconnected sets of accounts,” said the announcement. 23,750 accounts that comprise the core of the network, e.g. the highly engaged core network. Approximately 150,000 accounts that were designed to boost this content, e.g. the amplifiers. Based on feedback from researchers on our prior disclosures that we need to better refine the disclosure process to enable efficient investigation of the core activity, we have not included the 150,000 amplifier accounts in the public archive.
“In general, this entire network was involved in a range of manipulative and coordinated activities. They were Tweeting predominantly in Chinese languages and spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China (CCP), while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong.”
The remaining banned accounts were linked to Russia or Turkey and, unsurprisingly, focused on propping up their respective rulers, neither of whom are known for their fondness of dissent and unbridled democracy. While Twitter deserves to be criticised for meddling in US politics, it should be applauded for acting against non-genuine, bad-faith accounts such as these.
Twitter’s move comes a week after Facebook decided to flag posts from sources it judges to be state controlled media and the other social media giant faced a fresh political challenge today. The campaign to elect Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden wrote an open letter to Facebook, calling on it to censor President Trump.
“[Facebook] continues to allow Donald Trump to say anything — and to pay to ensure that his wild claims reach millions of voters,” bemoaned the letter. “SuperPACs and other dark money groups are following his example. Trump and his allies have used Facebook to spread fear and misleading information about voting, attempting to compromise the means of holding power to account: our voices and our ballot boxes.”
Facebook responded with the following statement. “We live in a democracy, where the elected officials decide the rules around campaigns. Two weeks ago the President of the United States issued an executive order directing Federal agencies to prevent social media sites from engaging in activities like fact-checking political statements. This week, the Democratic candidate for President started a petition calling on us to do the exact opposite.
“Just as they have done with broadcast networks — where the US government prohibits rejecting politicians’ campaign ads — the people’s elected representatives should set the rules, and we will follow them. There is an election coming in November and we will protect political speech, even when we strongly disagree with it.”
In other words, stop your special pleading and change the law if you think its so unfair. After all, calling for the censorship of political opponents is just the sort of thing you would expect from China, Russia and Turkey. Wouldn’t it be funny if Facebook decided to censor the Biden campaign instead?