Facebook, Twitter accuse China of running misinformation campaign against Hong Kong protesters

Twitter and Facebook have suspended various accounts that they say are tied to a Chinese misinformation campaign against pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Twitter said Monday it suspended 936 accounts probably associated with the activity. The corporate said the misinformation campaign was designed to “sow political discord in Hong Kong, as well as undermining the legitimacy and political protest movement on the bottom.”

Over the weekend, about 1.7 million anti-government protesters gathered in Hong Kong to rally peacefully against the Chinese government that assumed rule of the previous British colony in 1997. Protests erupted in June following a now-suspended bill that will permit criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China.

“Based on our intensive investigations, we’ve got reliable proof to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation,” the corporate said in a blog post. “Specifically, we’ve identified giant clusters of accounts behaving in a coordinated manner to amplify messages associated with the Hong Kong protests.”

Following Twitter’s announcement, Facebook said in a blog post that it was working on a tip from Twitter. Both corporations face raised pressure to restrict on fake accounts and false content on their platforms within the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, throughout which foreign actors used the sites to sow division around social problems.

Twitter’s latest move comes after social media website Pinboard warned days earlier that China was using Twitter to distribute posts from state media discrediting the protests.

Twitter is blocked in China; however many of the accounts it discovered were using virtual non-public networks, that encrypt and anonymize internet traffic. The accounts it suspended represent the “most active” portion of the broader spam campaign that it estimates to incorporate about 200,000 accounts.

As a results of the announcement, Twitter said it’d no longer accept advertising from state-controlled news media entities.