Twitter, which is blocked in mainland China, has been caught running ads paid for by China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, condemning the Hong Kong protests, reports Business Insider. The Twitter ads were originally highlighted by social media bookmarking site Pinboard, which is run by developer Maciej Cegłowski who says he’s been at the protests every day.
In one paid Twitter ad, the Xinhua News Agency claims that “escalating violence” at the protests is taking a “heavy toll on the social order.” It goes on to claim that “all walks of life in Hong Kong” are calling for order to be restored.
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
While there have been clashes between police and protesters since the protests began in June, on Sunday at least 1.7 million people in Hong Kong defied police orders to peacefully protest, reports the Guardian. With 1.7 million people in the streets peacefully protesting—in the rain no less—it’s impossible to square Xinhua’s claims in its paid Twitter ad that that “all walks of life in Hong Kong” are calling for order to be restored.
Matter of fact, the demonstrations are so orderly Hong Kong protesters have been returning to clean up after themselves after clashes with the police.
Another paid Twitter ad by the Xinhua News Agency also lead with a quote that said, “China is our home, our motherland” and then claimed that “Hong Kong citizens call for stopping violence, ending chaos and restoring order in the city.”
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
Because Twitter is blocked in mainland China and the Chinese government controls what news its citizens can see, most people in the mainland will never have a chance of seeing the paid posts Twitter is allowing Xinhua to run. This suggests the Chinese government is trying to influence an international audience about the Hong Kong protests. Though given the rival demonstrations spreading across the globe in solidarity with the Hong Kong protesters, it doesn’t seem the paid Twitter ads are working.
— Joanne Wong (@JOceanW) August 18, 2019