Facebook, Twitter remove accounts they say Chinese government was using to undermine in Hong Kong protests

The social media giant created the announcement on the same day that Facebook proclaimed it had removed seven pages, 3 groups and 5 accounts that it said originated from China and were “involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior.”


“What we’ve detected is both platforms saying variations on the theme that they have found people who are linked to the Chinese government, who’ve got caught running troll campaigns against the Hong Kong protesters, posting content saying that the protesters are cockroaches, that they’re evil individuals, that they’re the darkness standing in the way of the sunshine of the people’s revolution,” Ben Nimmo, a digital investigator with the social media analysis firm Graphika, told ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast.


Nearly 1,000 of the accounts that Twitter suspended were actively making an attempt to “sow political discord in Hong Kong,” the press release said. The corporate said that a number of the accounts accessed Twitter from mainland China, where Twitter is blocked, however that many of them gained access instead through virtual private networks, which can hide the location from which you’re browsing.


“One of the fascinating things about the Twitter announcement is that they say that plenty of these accounts were being run through.

Proxy internet accounts in different countries,” Nimmo said.


Facebook, meanwhile, said that the people behind the influence campaign it identified typically created fake accounts to manage pages that posed as news organizations, posted in groups, shared content or directed individuals to off-platform news websites.


“They frequently posted concerning local political news and problems together with topics just like the ongoing protests in Hong Kong,” a Facebook press release said. “Although the individuals behind this activity tried to hide their identities, our investigation found links to people related to the Chinese government.”


This story was featured in the Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, episode of ABC News’ daily news podcast, “Start Here.”


Now in their 11th week of protests, the announcements follow a week during which mainland China has begun to think about ratcheting up efforts to clean up the protests in the semi-autonomous territory as the protests became more violent.


Amid a city-wide strike, thousands of protesters last week stormed Hong Kong International airport, forcing officials to cancel flights for 2 days in a row as protesters paralyzed its operations. The protests marked an escalation between the Chinese government and Hong Kong protesters, who at one point blockaded themselves in the airport with luggage carts before clashing with riot police.


On Sunday, protesters rallied in Victoria Park in Hong Kong for what demonstrators say was the biggest protest however, with 1.7 million people present. it was mostly peaceful, save for a few blocked streets from overcrowding in the park.


The protests began in June when hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators marched in opposition to an extradition bill that government leaders in the territory had reached with the Chinese government. The bill was suspended as the protests grew louder.

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