Twitter has accepted advertising from China’s largest state news agency attacking pro-democracy protesters. The ads, known as “promoted tweets,” call the Hong Kong protests “blatant violence.”
TechCrunch reports that Twitter is currently facing criticism for allowing promoted tweet advertising by China’s largest state news agency. The promoted tweets aim to smear pro-democracy demonstrations by protesters in Hong Kong as violent even though recently rallies which have drawn as many as 1.7 million people have been reported as largely peaceful by international media.
Promoted tweet ads from China Xinhua News, an agency run by the Chinese Communist Party, were shared by the Twitter account Pinboard, a bookmarking service founded by Maciej Ceglowski. Twitter is blacklisted by the Chinese communist government, completely blocked by the “Great Chinese Firewall.”
Every day I go out and see stuff with my own eyes, and then I go to report it on Twitter and see promoted tweets saying the opposite of what I saw. Twitter is taking money from Chinese propaganda outfits and running these promoted tweets against the top Hong Kong protest hashtags pic.twitter.com/6Wb0Km6GOb
— Pinboard (@Pinboard) August 17, 2019
I just came home from a completely peaceful march where possibly a million Hong Kong residents came out, with no police in sight, to call for basic democratic rights. What greets me is straight up lies from Xinhua about “bands of thugs”, courtesy of Twitter advertising. pic.twitter.com/pUTsnqZ5oN
— Pinboard (@Pinboard) August 18, 2019
Protests in Hong Kong began in March in opposition to a now-suspended extradition bill but have since expanded to include a number of other demands. These include the release of imprisoned protesters, investigations into the actions of police officers, the full resignation of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam and a more democratic election process for members of the Legislative Council and Chief Executive.
China Xinhua News has repeatedly described protesters as violent while international observers reporting on the demonstrations have criticized the Hong Kong police force for excessive use of force against peaceful protesters. Amnesty International even published footage showing a high level of violence used by police against peaceful protesters.
Interestingly, Twitter is banned in China yet the China Xinhua News service has been permitted to pay for promoted tweets on the platform. The Washington Post reported in January that approximately 10 million Chinese citizens actively user Twitter via VPN, but it has become a valuable tool for criticism of the countries Communist regime.
Twitter was criticized around the time of the thirtieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre recently over claims that the social media site censored critics of the Chinese government. After multiple Chinese-language user accounts were removed, the company stated that they “were not mass reported by the Chinese authorities.”