Republicans vow to not buy Twitter ads after McConnell account gets blocked

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's Twitter campaign account was temporarily locked after it shared a video in which some protesters spoke of violence outside his Kentucky home, where he is recovering from a shoulder fracture. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)
Updated 09 August 2019

Republicans vow to not buy Twitter ads after McConnell account gets blocked

  • Twitter locked the “Team Mitch” account after it posted a video of protesters outside the Senate majority leader’s home in Kentucky shouting that he should die

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and leading Republicans on Thursday vowed to not buy Twitter ads after the social media platform froze Senator Mitch McConnell’s re-election account for breaking site rules.
Twitter locked the “Team Mitch” account after it posted a video of protesters outside the Senate majority leader’s home in Kentucky shouting that he should die.
The video violated Twitter’s violent threats policy, “specifically threats involving physical safety,” the social media platform said.
The demonstration came after a picture over the weekend went viral on social media of young McConnell supporters in “Team Mitch” t-shirts groping and choking a life-size cardboard cutout of New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The conservative backlash over McConnell’s frozen account was swift.
“Twitter’s hostile actions toward Leader McConnell’s campaign are outrageous, and we will not tolerate it,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Jesse Hunt said in a statement.
He said his group “will suspend all spending with Twitter until further notice. We will not spend our resources on a platform that silences conservatives.”
The Republican Party “and @TeamTrump stand with the @Team_Mitch and the @NRSC,” tweeted Republican National Committee chief of staff Richard Walters.
“Any future ad $ either organization was planning to spend with @Twitter has been halted until they address this disgusting bias,” he wrote.
Republicans often complain that social media platforms try to silence conservative voices.
The weekend photo of Ocasio-Cortez led the congresswoman herself to fire back.
“Hey @senatemajldr — these young men look like they work for you,” she tweeted Monday.
“Just wanted to clarify: are you paying for young men to practice groping & choking members of Congress w/ your payroll, or is this just the standard culture of #TeamMitch? Thanks.”
The original Instagram photo was taken down and the user who posted it apologized.
McConnell’s campaign manager, Kevin Golden, complained that “the far-left and the media” were working hard “to demonize, stereotype, and publicly castigate every young person who dares to get involved with Republican politics,” noting that the young men in the photo were high school supporters.
Golden then condemned “aggressive, suggestive, or demeaning act toward life sized cardboard cut outs of any gender.”

 


Twitter shuts more than 200,000 Chinese accounts targeting Hong Kong protests

Updated 20 August 2019

Twitter shuts more than 200,000 Chinese accounts targeting Hong Kong protests

  • Twitter traced the Hong Kong campaign to two fake Chinese and English Twitter accounts that pretended to be news organizations based in Hong Kong
  • An additional 936 core accounts Twitter believes originated from within China attempted to sow political discord in Hong Kong

 

 

WASHINGTON: Twitter said Monday it has suspended more than 200,000 accounts that it believes were part of a Chinese government influence campaign targeting the protest movement in Hong Kong.
The company also said it will ban ads from state-backed media companies, expanding a prohibition it first applied in 2017 to two Russian entities.
Both measures are part of what a senior company official portrayed in an interview as a broader effort to curb malicious political activity on a popular platform that has been criticized for enabling election interference around the world and for accepting money for ads that amount to propaganda by state-run media organizations.
The accounts were suspended for violating the social networking platform’s terms of service and “because we think this is not how people can come to Twitter to get informed,” the official said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns, said the Chinese activity was reported to the FBI, which investigated Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election through social media.
After being notified by Twitter and conducting its own investigation, Facebook said Monday that it has also removed seven pages, three groups and five accounts, including some portraying protesters as cockroaches and terrorists.
Facebook, which is more widely used in Hong Kong, does not release the data on such state-backed influence operations.
Twitter traced the Hong Kong campaign to two fake Chinese and English Twitter accounts that pretended to be news organizations based in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy demonstrators have taken to the streets since early June calling for full democracy and an inquiry into what they say is police violence against protesters.
Though Twitter is banned in China, it is available in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous region.
The Chinese language account, @HKpoliticalnew, and the English account, @ctcc507, pushed tweets depicting protesters as violent criminals in a campaign aimed at influencing public opinion around the world. One of those accounts was tied to a suspended Facebook account that went by the same moniker: HKpoliticalnew.
An additional 936 core accounts Twitter believes originated from within China attempted to sow political discord in Hong Kong by undermining the protest movement’s legitimacy and political positions.
About 200,000 more automated Twitter accounts amplified the messages, engaging with the core accounts in the network. Few tweeted more than once, the official said, mostly because Twitter quickly caught many of them.
The Twitter official said the investigation remains ongoing and there could be further disclosures.
The Twitter campaign reflects the fact that the Chinese government has studied the role of social media in mass movements and fears the Hong Kong protests could spark wider unrest, said James Lewis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“This is standard Chinese practice domestically, and we know that after 2016 they studied what the Russians did in the US carefully,” Lewis said. “So it sounds like this is the first time they’re deploying their new toy.”
Twitter has sought to more aggressively monitor its network for malicious political activity since the 2016 presidential election and to be more transparent about its investigations, publicly releasing such data about state-backed influence operations since October so others can evaluate it, the official said.
“We’re not only telling the public this happened, we’re also putting the data out there so people can study it for themselves,” the official said.
As for state-backed media organizations, they are still allowed to use Twitter, but are no longer allowed to pay for ads, which show up regardless of whether you have elected to follow the group’s tweet.
Twitter declined to provide a list of what it considers state-backed media organizations, but a representative said it may consider doing so in the future. In 2017, Twitter specifically announced it would ban Russia-based RT and Sputnik from advertising on its platform.