According to Twitter and Facebook, the Chinese government ran a social media campaign aimed at protesters in Hong Kong. Both companies announced they had removed fake accounts from their platforms Monday morning. Twitter said it had removed nearly 1,000 fake accounts:
This disclosure consists of 936 accounts originating from within the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Overall, these accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground. Based on our intensive investigations, we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation. Specifically, we identified large clusters of accounts behaving in a coordinated manner to amplify messages related to the Hong Kong protests.
Twitter added that there was a much larger mass of 200,000 accounts which were created after the initial accounts were suspended but which hadn’t become active. Twitter suspended those accounts as well. Meanwhile, Facebook announced a very similar conclusion:
Today, we removed seven Pages, three Groups and five Facebook accounts involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a small network that originated in China and focused on Hong Kong. The individuals behind this campaign engaged in a number of deceptive tactics, including the use of fake accounts — some of which had been already disabled by our automated systems — to manage Pages posing as news organizations, post in Groups, disseminate their content, and also drive people to off-platform news sites. They frequently posted about local political news and issues including topics like the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government.
Facebook offered screenshots of some of the pages it removed, including posts that compared the protesters in Hong Kong to ISIS:
Other social media posts labeled the protesters “the Hong Kong cockroaches.” Naturally, you don’t tolerate cockroaches, you step on them or poison them. No doubt that’s what China would like to do to the protesters right now. The problem is that there are so many of them. Hundreds of thousands of people came out to protest for freedom this Sunday, despite the rain. Organizers estimated as many as 1.7 million people attended this weekend while the Hong Kong police put the number at 128,000. The first number is probably high but the second definitely seems low when you see the size of these crowds. This BBC clip contains aerial footage as well as some interviews with protesters.