Hey, maybe you were arguing with a bot after all.
On Thursday, Twitter reveled an effort to dismantle three separate “state-linked information operations” that, according to the San Francisco-based social media company, worked to spread misinformation and attack political dissidents. One such effort, allegedly run by the People’s Republic of China, reportedly focused on how the Chinese government dealt with the coronavirus.
So reports the New York Times, which notes that the 173,750 government-affiliated accounts removed by Twitter highlighted the PRC’s — presumably positive — handling of the virus. Twitter, for its part, was less specific as to what the massive network was up to before it was banned.
“They were Tweeting predominantly in Chinese languages and spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China (CCP),” reads Twitter’s blog post, “while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong.”
Interestingly, approximately 150,000 of the accounts in question mainly existed to prop up the remaining 23,750 with likes and retweets. It was the latter group that Twitter dubbed the “core network.”
While 170,000 plus accounts may sound like a decent effort to sway opinion about a globe-altering event, according to Twitter size isn’t everything. The report notes that campaign, as far as Twitter can tell, didn’t really break through.
“Despite the volume, the core 23,750 accounts we are publishing to the archive were largely caught early and failed to achieve considerable traction on the service, typically holding low follower accounts and low engagement,” reads the report.
Twitter’s report was not exclusively focused on China. It revealed two other account networks, which the social media company tied to Russia and Turkey, as well. The former reportedly included efforts to “[promote] the United Russia party and [attack] political dissidents,” while the latter was used to “amplify political narratives favorable to the [Turkish conservative political party] AK Parti[.]”
In other words, despite all the reporting focused on Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election via social media, it’s worth remembering that countries do this stuff at home, too. Not that that will make it any better the next time a host of Trump-friendly accounts insist that injecting bleach is actually a great idea, but still.