A few days ago, Twitter shut down over 1,70,000 China-linked accounts for “spreading geopolitical narratives favourable to the Communist Party of China”.
Specifically, it suspended thousands of accounts it claimed violated its “platform manipulation policies” by pushing “deceptive narratives” around the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, applauding China’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and antagonizing the United States of America over the death of George Floyd. Twitter also suspended more than 1,000 Russian and 7,000 Turkish accounts it claimed were spreading Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan‘s propaganda.
Well, the news is worrying because A: the basis for removal of Twitter accounts of certain countries (especially China) sets a dangerous precedent, and B: mainstream media is averse to investigate the hidden agenda behind the vicious move.
Is Twitter Pushing A New Cold War With China?
Twitter worked in tandem with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) – the Canberra-based think tank funded by the Department of Defence, foreign governments, and defence contractors – to analyse and delete over 23,000 “core” and 150,000 “amplifier” accounts. The problem is: the ASPI is accused of fuelling anti-China hysteria to benefit its sponsors such as weapon companies including Lockheed Martin, BAE, Northrop Grumman, Thales and Raytheon; technology companies like Microsoft, Oracle Australia, Telstra, and Google; and foreign governments including strategic competitors to China such Taiwan.
Senator Kim Carr claims the ASPI working hand-in-hand with Washington with an “intent on fighting a new cold war with China” alleging that the think tank guzzled nearly $450,000 from the US State Department to track Chinese research collaborations with Australian universities as well as “vilifying and denigrating” Australian researchers and their work. While former minister of foreign affairs Bob Carr accuses it of pushing a “one-sided, pro-American view of the world”, columnist and award-winning foreign correspondent Tony Walker slams it for its “dystopian worldview”. The ASPI was recently denounced by Australia’s ex-ambassador to China turned Beijing-based business consultant Geoff Raby as “the architect of the China threat theory in Australia”.
The Reality of Twitter’s Own Deceptive Narrative
When you partner with a not-so-independent, not-so-non-partisan think tank dedicated to demonizing China, you put yourself under scrutiny too.
However, news of Gordon MacMillan (Twitter’s head of editorial for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) serving as an officer in the British Army’s 77th Brigade (a psychological warfare unit that develops “non-lethal” ways of waging war) was largely ignored by mainstream media despite the fact that the 77th Brigade uses social media platforms (such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook) as well as podcasts, data analysis and audience research to manipulate and propagandize the public in order to conduct “information warfare”.
The shocking revelation about MacMillan raises serious questions about Twitter’s (which claims “transparency is part of our DNA”) intention behind uncovering and taking down “government-sponsored disinformation campaigns” in countries like China, Russia, Turkey, Ecuador, UAE, and Spain but never identifying and suspending campaigns from countries like Australia, the U.S., and the U.K.
As mentioned earlier, the ASPI is funded by weapon companies – all of who would profit the most from a war with China. Further, the ASPI is headed by Peter Jennings (former Chief of Staff to the Minister for Defence) who defends the Iraq War and supports regime change in Syria.
“Disinformation campaigns from nation-states destroy the integrity of social media sites like Twitter,” Mustafa al Bassam, a security researcher, told VICE News. “If Twitter is only tackling disinfo campaigns of enemies of the U.K. and U.S. governments, but not the U.K. and U.S. governments themselves, then their work basically serves as a tool to these governments, rather than actually improving Twitter for everyone.”
Selective Outrage Or Double Standards?
According to Twitter, China is spreading disinformation on Twitter by creating tens of thousands of fake accounts to demean the Hong Kong protests (incidentally, America benefits from a free Hong Kong) and applaud the Communist Party’s response to COVID-19 (Trump blames China for the pandemic to distract the world from his failure). But it is silent on exposing and deleting thousands of accounts spreading fake news, misinformation, and propaganda favourable to the Narendra Modi Government in India.
Unsurprisingly, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has questioned Twitter’s intention by criticizing it for not unmasking accounts that accused the country of creating the coronavirus as a bioweapon.
Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the ministry, says: “If Twitter really wants to do something, they should shut those coordinated and organized accounts that attack and smear China. China is the largest victim of disinformation, [and] we are against the spreading of disinformation. China’s efforts and achievements in fighting the coronavirus epidemic are real and obvious to all. Apart from those with extreme malice who slander China, the unbiased people of the international community can all see it clearly and hold a high degree of approval.”
Wonder why Twitter only finds evidence of online manipulation coming from countries that the United States hates and never itself or its allies? Can taking a different line on the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong (called dissent and freedom of speech in a democracy) be termed a violation of Twitter rules? Mint Press News observes: “Washington is currently ramping up hostilities with China, the Pentagon’s 2021 budget explicitly asking for extra funding to be ready for an aggressive war in Asia. Joe Biden and Donald Trump have attacked each other for being “soft” on China, with both parties seemingly trying to shift the blame onto Beijing for what has become one of the worst COVID-19 responses in the world, leading to over 116,000 deaths. As a result, public opinion on China has quickly soured; only nine years ago, Americans had a strongly positive view of the country. Today 66 percent dislike China and around 80 percent are ready to embrace a full-scale economic war against it. If conflict with the world’s most populous nation is to occur, the information war must be won first. It seems that it is well on the way to being achieved.”