Twitter has been forced to apologise after more than 100 accounts belonging to “anti-ccp” users were deleted.
The New York Times first reported the trend over the weekend, stating the accounts of “human rights lawyers, activists, college students and nationalists, who use workarounds to get access to Twitter, which is banned in China”, were being rapidly deleted.
The mass cull of these accounts coincided with the 30th anniversary of the infamous crackdown on a student-led pro-democracy demonstration in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
Many online assumed this was another exercise in censorship by the Chinese government, including US Senator Marco Rubio.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) June 1, 2019
But Twitter alleges the removal was the result of a routine check by its filters.
“As part of our work to protect the health of the public conversation, we proactively challenge 8-10 million accounts per week for engaging in various forms of platform manipulation, including spam and other inauthentic behaviors,” the social media giant said.
“As part of these efforts, we suspended a number of accounts this week. A significant proportion for engaging in a mix of spamming, inauthentic behavior, & ban evasion, all of which are violations of the Twitter Rules — regardless of the content being shared or views expressed.
“However, some of these were involved in commentary about China. These accounts were not mass reported by the Chinese authorities — this was a routine action on our part.”
However, some of these were involved in commentary about China. These accounts were not mass reported by the Chinese authorities — this was a routine action on our part.
— Twitter Public Policy (@Policy) June 1, 2019
But not everyone is buying it.
“Twitter says accident, but v. little explanation as to why this seemed to mainly affect one particular group of users,” said CNN producer James Griffiths.
“Maybe Chinese dissident Twitter lousy with bot followers, or other spammy behaviour, but without explanation just asking for conspiracy.”
China Change founder and editor Yaxue Cao suggested it could have been an ‘inside job’.
Per @Twitter’s explanation, it’s cleaning up CCP bots but accidentally suspended 1000s anti-CCP accts. That doesn’t make sense. 1 thing twitter needs to look into is if this process was abused by some1 on its payroll. A dark thought but not implausible. @Policy @twittersecurity
— Yaxue Cao (@YaxueCao) June 1, 2019