After receiving heat for running ads that criticize pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, Facebook and Twitter have taken major steps to fight the misinformation campaign from China.
According to reports, the two popular social media platforms have removed hundreds of accounts, pages, and groups ran by people who seek to "sow political discord in Hong Kong."
Facebook, Twitter Block China's Troll Army
"They frequently posted about local political news and issues including topics like the ongoing protests in Hong Kong," explained Nathaniel Gleicher, the head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook.
Twitter alone has so far removed a total of 935 accounts. Although the users used virtual private networks to conceal their IP addresses, the site traced that the accounts originated in mainland China. They also suspended an additional 200,000 accounts designed to amplify disinformation about the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong before they were substantially active on the site.
"Based on our intensive investigations, we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation," reads a statement released by Twitter. "We will continue to be vigilant, learning from this network and proactively enforcing our policies to serve the public conversation."
The move comes immediately after both companies landed in hot waters for allowing Chinese state-run media run ads and sponsored posts that criticize pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. In a statement, Twitter said that the company is no longer advertising from Chinese state-run media because it wants to uphold "healthy discourse and open conversation."
Thousands Protest In Hong Kong
Since March, thousands of Hong Kong citizens have gathered to protest a bill that would allow extradition from the territory to China. The bill was suspended in June after a series of large demonstrations, but protests continued as the movement demands for democratic reform and investigation of police brutality during mass gatherings.
Last Sunday, Aug. 18, a rally saw a turnout of around 1.7 million people, according to organizers. However, the police said that the figure is much lower at 128,000 because only those who were present at the officially-sanctioned protest was counted.
The Chinese government condemned the protests, describing it as "behavior that is close to terrorism."