Chinese Twitter accounts blocked poorly informed for years: report

SYDNEY: Hundreds of Chinese accounts suspended by Twitter were part of a disinformation operation for years aimed at critics of the ruling Communist Party of China, Australian researchers discovered.

After reviewing 3.6 million tweets of 940 suspended Twitter accounts , the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said that the accounts had conducted blunt influence campaigns for at least two years.

Twitter and Facebook banned 200,000 accounts last month for deliberately and specifically sowing political discord in Hong Kong, as part of a state-backed effort to discredit activists for democracy.

Upon studying a small part of these accounts, the Australian group of experts discovered that they had previously attacked prominent critics of the Chinese Communist Party.

The most intense information operation pointed to Chinese billionaire businessman Guo Wengui, who fled into exile after being accused of corruption, according to the study published Tuesday.

The campaign against Guo began a few days after a red Interpol notice was issued against him at Beijing's request in 2017.

The Strategic Policy Institute of Australia found 38,732 tweets of 618 accounts that went directly to the entrepreneur and noticed spikes in the activity around significant developments in Guo is falling with the Chinese government.

Tweets range from attacks on Guo's character to criticism of his relationship with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

This was a forceful influence operation, using spam accounts to spread messages, leveraging a network of influence to hire, the study said.

A 2017 Harvard study found that Beijing pays for up to 448 million false posts and comments on Chinese social networks per year.