Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Twitter and the Truth About Hong Kong's Protest Movement

The ongoing protests in Hong Kong are not necessarily what they appear to be.  The protestors are using a very organized military-style approach to battling riot police and the Chinese side is using disinformation if Twitter is to be believed.  In this posting, I want to take a look at how Twitter is fighting back against the Hong Kong protest narrative that it does not wish to promote.

The Chinese side of this protest is fighting back against the Hong Kong protest movement by allegedly using Twitter.  According to an announcement by Twitter, one of the world's leading social platforms was forced to take actions against a "significant state-backed information operation focused on the situation in Hong Kong".  In this case, Twitter suspended a total of 936 accounts which it believed were originating from inside the People's Republic of China even though the originators of the accounts would have used a VPN to access Twitter since it is banned in China. 

Here is the announcement:

Here is an example of a violation of Twitter's terms of service by "Dream News":

Here is what Twitter had to say about its banning of the accounts:

"Covert, manipulative behaviors have no place on our service — they violate the fundamental principles on which our company is built. As we have said before, it is clear that information operations and coordinated inauthentic behavior will not cease. These deceptive strategies have been around for far longer than Twitter has existed. They adapt and change as the geopolitical terrain evolves worldwide and as new technologies emerge. For our part, we are committed to understanding and combating how bad-faith actors use our services.

Today we are adding archives containing complete Tweet and user information for the 936 accounts we’ve disclosed to our archive of information operations — the largest of its kind in the industry.

We will continue to be vigilant, learning from this network and proactively enforcing our policies to serve the public conversation. We hope that by being transparent and open we will empower further learning and public understanding of these nefarious tactics."  (my bolds)

The use of the word "nefarious" in this context may be a bit of an overstatement given that we all know that governments around the world (including those in the West) are using social media platforms to propagandize all of us.

Let's take a quick look at Twitter's rules for "Authenticity":

Notice that you cannot use Twitter's services to "artificially amplify or suppress information or engage in behaviour that manipulates or disrupts people's experience on Twitter".  Apparently, in Twitter's reality, there is no room for discussion when it comes to the protests in Hong Kong - the only acceptable narrative is that China (one of the world's two "bad guys", a distinction that it shares with Russia) is somehow at fault and that any tweets to the contrary contravene its rules for "Authenticity".

The ongoing protests in Hong Kong are not necessarily what they appear to be.  We can pretty much assure ourselves that the United States/Washington and its vilification of all things Chinese  is involved in funding, training or organizing the pro-democracy demonstrations.  In this post-truth era, it is almost impossible to suss out the truth on this (or any other) series of events and the actions by Twitter are increasingly making it difficult for anyone to discern both sides of the story.

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