The company said the accounts were “broader geopolitical narratives conducive to the Communist Party of China” and had been removed for violating its platform manipulation policy.
The renunciation of Twitter is the latest development in Silicon Valley’s attempt to thwart governments using social media platforms to encourage news in their favor.
Twitter is officially blocked in China, although many people in the country can access it via VPN. Among the goals of the Chinese campaign were overseas Chinese “in an effort to use their capacities to expand the influence of the party state,” according to the Australian Institute for Strategic Policy, the Twitter group worked with account analysis. Twitter reported that the accounts tweeted “predominantly in Chinese”.
Renee DiResta, head of research at the Stanford Internet Observatory, who also analyzed the bills, said many of those who released Covid-19 during the spring were set up only in late January.
“Narratives around Covid,” the SIO wrote in its analysis, “praise China’s response to the virus, while tweets also use the pandemic to counter American and Hong Kong activists.”
Twitter said it had identified 23,750 accounts it described as a “highly engaged core network” used to tweet Beijing-friendly content and an additional 150,000 accounts used to expand the content, for example, by retrieving content posted on basic accounts.
A total of 23,750 accounts were tweeted a total of 348,608 times, according to researchers from Stanford.
Twitter announced that many accounts were discovered early and therefore have a small number of followers and low engagement.
This is not the first such action taken by Twitter. In August 2019, the company removed just under 1,000 accounts believed to operate within mainland China for “a deliberate and special attempt to sow political discord in Hong Kong”.
The company also announced on Thursday that it had shut down accounts related to Russia and Turkey.
Twitter found more than 1,000 accounts promoting the ruling United Russia party.
In Turkey, a network of 7,340 accounts published content suitable for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan AK Party. Stanford researchers said the accounts were tweeted 37 million times.
Tweets from many Twitter accounts that the company will close will be published in an archive where they can be studied.