Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying commented Friday on Twitter’s removal suspension of Chinese accounts and said Twitter should instead focus on removing “accounts that spread malicious messages in an attempt to defame China.”

On Friday, Twitter said it suspended a core network of 23,750 highly active accounts, as well as a larger network of about 150,000 “amplifier” accounts used to boost the core accounts’ content. According to the company, these accounts were all tied to a Beijing-backed influence operation that spread messages favorable to the Chinese government, including about the coronavirus.

Hua said while she did not know Twitter relied on what led to these removals, its move to suspend accounts that commended China’s coronavirus response was certainly untenable unless the company redefined its meaning of disinformation.

“Both the efforts China has made to combat the pandemic and the results achieved are widely acknowledged. Apart from those who vilify China with extreme malice, people who are free of prejudice see it clearly and give China credit.”

There is clear evidence that certain groups of people in the international community have embarked on a “nearly frantic” disinformation campaign aiming to slander China, said Hua Twitter’s removal. She specifically singled out a 57-page memo drafted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to indicate proof of such attempts. The memo, which was distributed by the committee to Republican campaigns, advises election candidates to aggressively attack China when addressing the COVID-19 crisis.

“Just a couple of days ago, U.S. news outlets reported that there were some 2.6 million tweets regarding the COVID-19 in the latter half of March, and they were retweeted for more than 25 million times within 10 days,” Hua continued. “Many of these tweets spread rumors that claim the coronavirus was a bio-weapon made by China, Twitter’s removal and Republicans and some right-wing networks were reportedly the ones responsible for starting these rumors and creating robot accounts that helped to propagate them. “

“If Twitter deems messages commending China’s coronavirus response as disinformation and decides to remove them, what about those that are slanderous, malicious, and factually proven to be disinformation?” Hua said. “Not making a move against these networks would be a plain example of double standards.”

Hua then called on Twitter to take action against these networks. She also reiterated that China, which is the biggest victim of disinformation, has always been against such practices. 

Closer scrutiny

Twitter has been increasingly active in imposing scrutiny on the content its users published on the platform.

Later last month, Twitter labeled two of President Donald Trump’s tweets “unsubstantiated” and accused him of making false claims.

Vera Jourova, a European Commission vice-president, repeatedly praised the move, while saying she would like to see a similar approach taken by social media companies on other false information.

“Be it the president, be the diplomats, be it me… when we [politicians] say something we have to be accountable, and we should be able to stand that somebody goes and checks the facts.”

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) – a Canberra based think-tank – analyzed the database acquired from Twitter. The institute published a report earlier, showing a close connection between the disinformation campaigns initiated on Twitter during the coronavirus pandemic and pro-Trump and QAnon affiliations.

The report says, about 30 clusters of Twitter accounts, which are affiliated with supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump, the Republican Party, or the conspiracy theory QAnon, spread rumors that the coronavirus was a bioweapon created in China.

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