Twitter has said it has shut down about 3,500 accounts that were posting pro-government propaganda in six countries, among them Uganda, China and Russia.
In a statement, Twitter said that the bigger percentage of accounts were part of a network that “amplified Chinese Communist Party narratives related to the treatment of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang.”
Currently, China is facing accusations of grave human rights violations against the ethnic minority in its northwestern province, where experts have projected that over one million people have been incarcerated in camps.
In addition to the 2,048 accounts tied to the pro-Beijing campaign, Twitter also dismissed another 12 accounts linked to a company dubbed Changyu Culture, linked to Xinjiang’s regional government.
The move comes hours after Facebook’s parent company Meta disclosed that it had shut down over 500 accounts that were part of a China-linked influence campaign connected to Covid-19.
The accounts are said to have spurred claims from a fictitious Swiss biologist, Wilson Edwards, that the United States was meddling in efforts to identify the origins of the coronavirus.
In July, Chinese state media widely quoted “Edwards”, although a string of newspapers deleted references to him after the Swiss embassy in Beijing said there was no trace of him.
In China, both Twitter and Facebook are prohibited yet Beijing frequently uses the two US social networks to boost its positions on the international stage.
Apart from China, Twitter has also closed down 16 accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company labelled a “troll farm” by critics, which runs pro-government online influence campaigns.
“The operation relied on a mix of inauthentic and real accounts to introduce a pro-Russia viewpoint into Central African political discourse,” Twitter said.
Since 2018, Russia has wielded increasing influence in the Central African Republic when it sent a large contingent of “instructors” to train the army.
“We also removed a network of 50 accounts that attacked the civilian Libyan government and actors that support it, while voicing significant support for Russia’s geopolitical position in Libya and Syria,” Twitter added.
The prohibited accounts also include another 276 that posted pro-government content in Mexico, and “277 Venezuelan accounts that amplified accounts, hashtags and topics in support of the government and its official narratives.”
In the African continent 268 accounts were shut down for aiming at civil rights group FichuaTanzania, alongside another 418 that “engaged in coordinated inauthentic activity” in Uganda to promote President Museveni.
“In most instances, accounts were suspended for various violations of our platform manipulation and spam policies,” Twitter said.
Like it is the norm among social media giants, Twitter has faced criticism over failures to fight misinformation on its platform as well as racist, sexist and homophobic posts, among other forms of hate speech.
On Thursday, Twitter also announced that it will launch a Twitter Moderation Research Consortium early 2022, bringing together “experts from across academia, civil society, NGOs and journalism” to look into possible improvements.
According to Twitter, it would not seek to influence the consortium’s findings.