On Monday, Twitter announced that it suspended more than 200,000 accounts that it says were part of a Chinese government influence campaign according to a piece on ABC News. Twitter believes these accounts were set up to target the protesters in Hong Kong so the same expanded prohibition was applied, the first since 2017 when the accounts of two Russian entities were closed. According to this article and the AP, Associated Press, the accounts were suspended for violating the terms of service for preventing because, according to Twitter, “because we think this is not how people come to Twitter to get informed,” the official said in an interview to AP.
This Chinese activity was reported to the FBI and flagged as a series of accounts were taken down. Facebook also suspended and shut down accounts, they thought were violating the terms of service. Twitter said the investigation is ongoing and there will be more disclosures. According to James Lewis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Chinese leadership has studied and knows the impact that social media can have on mass movements and more specifically street demonstrations.
In our view, these social media accounts can spark sudden and aggressive street protests and even riots that threaten leadership. The Chinese government has been smart not to send the troops into Hong Kong, as the military could trigger mass violence and shootings.