The company said the accounts were “publishing favorable geopolitical narratives of the Communist Party of China” and had been removed for violating its platform rigging policies.
Twitter removal is the latest development in Silicon Valley’s attempt to frustrate governments using social media platforms to advance narratives in their favor.
Twitter is officially banned in China, although many people in the country are able to access it using VPN. Among the goals of the Chinese expedition was the Chinese expatriates “trying to use their ability to expand the influence of the partisan state,” according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a group Twitter has analyzed. Twitter said the accounts were tweeted “mostly in Chinese”.
Rene Derista, director of research at the Stanford Internet Observatory, who also analyzed accounts, said that many of those who published information about Covid-19 throughout the spring were only preparing in late January.
“The accounts about Covid hail China’s response to the virus, while the tweets also use the epidemic to antagonize US and Hong Kong activists,” the Southern African News Agency wrote in its analysis.
Twitter said it had identified 23,750 accounts it described as a “highly interactive core network” that was used to tweet Beijing’s favorite content and another 150,000 accounts used to inflate the content, for example, by retweeting the content published by the main accounts.
According to researchers at Stanford University, 23,750 group accounts have been 348,608 times.
Twitter said that many accounts were identified early, so their followers were low and sharing was low.
This is not the first action taken by Twitter. In August 2019, the company removed just under 1,000 accounts believed to be operating within mainland China “intentionally and especially trying to sow political controversy in Hong Kong.”
The company also announced on Thursday that it had closed accounts linked to Russia and Turkey.
Twitter found more than 1,000 accounts that promoted the ruling United Russia party.
In Turkey, a network of 7,340 accounts published favorite content of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo أردan AK Parti. Stanford researchers said the accounts had been tweeted 37 million times.
Tweets from many accounts that are closed on Twitter by the company will be posted to an archive where they can be studied.