Twitter removes new batch of state-backed accounts

Twitter steps in as China-backed accounts try to sway public opinion on Hong Kong
Twitter has banned 936 accounts managed by the Chinese state and it will stop accepting ads paid for by state-run news agencies.

Twitter announced today that it removed a new batch of state-backed accounts from its platform. During this latest round of purges, the social network removed accounts operated from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Ecuador, and China.

These new removals come as Twitter also took down state-backed accounts part of extensive information operations back in January (Bangladesh, Iran, Russia, Venezuela), June (Iran, Spain, Venezuela), and August (China).

Just like it did before, Twitter has made the information about these accounts and their tweets public and downloadable for research and academic purposes.

More on the recent removals are available below:

United Arab Emirates & Egypt – 267 accounts

Cause: “These accounts were interconnected in their goals and tactics: a multi-faceted information operation primarily targeting Qatar, and other countries such as Iran. It also amplified messaging supportive of the Saudi government.”

Twitter said it believed the accounts were managed by DotDev, a private technology company operating in the UAE and Egypt.

United Arab Emirates – 4,258 accounts

Cause: “These accounts were often employing false personae and tweeting about regional issues, such as the Yemeni Civil War and the Houthi Movement.”

Saudi Arabia – 6 accounts

Cause: “Engaged in coordinated efforts to amplify messaging that was beneficial to the Saudi government. While active, the accounts in this set presented themselves as independent journalistic outlets while tweeting narratives favourable to the Saudi government. “

Twitter said the accounts were linked to Saudi Arabia’s state-run media apparatus.

In addition, Twitter also said it suspended the personal account of
Saud al-Qahtani, a Saudi Arabian consultant and former royal court advisor. Twitter said the account was suspended because of “violations of our platform manipulation policies,” and that it continues to suspend individual accounts for political spam, even if they’re not part of a coordinated state-run operation.

Spain – 259 accounts

Cause: “Falsely boosting public sentiment online in Spain. […] These accounts were active for a relatively short period, and consisted primarily of fake accounts engaging in spamming or retweet behaviour to increase engagement.”

Twitter said the accounts were linked back to Partido Popular, a right-wing conservative political party.

Ecuador – 1,019 accounts

Cause: “The network, composed largely of fake accounts, was primarily engaged in spreading content about President Moreno’s administration, focusing on issues concerning Ecuadorian laws on freedom of speech, government censorship, and technology. Tactics most commonly used were hashtag manipulation and retweet spam.”

Twitter said the accounts suspended today were tied to the PAIS Alliance political party, President Moreno’s former party and the current ruling party.

China – 4,302 accounts

Cause: “Sow discord about the protest movement in Hong Kong.”

Twitter said these accounts were operated by the Chinese government and are directly tied to the accounts it banned last month, in August.

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Twitter removes new batch of state-backed accounts
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