Twitter will not accept advertisements from state-controlled news media entities, it said in a blog post on August 19, though, accounts affected by this new policy can still use Twitter as regular users. This policy will apply to news media entities that are either financially or editorially controlled by the state, Twitter said.

China-backed accounts were posting content undermining protests in Hong Kong

This new policy came after Twitter released information on a covert social-media campaign that was being run by news outlets controlled by Chinese government to undermine the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. Twitter said that it identified a network of 936 accounts that “were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.” All these accounts have been taken down from Twitter. “Based on our intensive investigations, we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation,” Twitter said.

Meanwhile, Facebook removed certain accounts, pages and groups that it found had links to individuals associated with the Chinese government and were posting similar content on the protests in Hong Kong. It is also worth noting that per a BuzzFeed report, Chinese state-run media outlets had been buying advertisements on Facebook and Twitter that portrayed the protests negatively.

These news outlets were posting content, in several languages, with an aim to disrupt the demonstrations in Hong Kong.  An account titled “Dream News” had tweeted, “…we don’t want you radical people in Hong Kong. Just get out of here!”

Courtesy: Twitter

Twitter said that since it was blocked in China, several of these accounts accessed the website using VPNs. However, some accounts accessed Twitter from specific unblocked IP addresses originating in mainland China.

Twitter will notify entities affected by the changes coming days, who will then have 30 days to off-board from its advertising products. In the meantime, no new advertising campaigns will be allowed by state-controlled media entities. This policy will not apply to outlets that are funded by taxpayers. Outlets dedicated to entertainment, sports, and travel content will also not fall under this policy as long as their content is not mixed with news.

Twitter will identify these state-controlled media outlets with inputs from academia and civil society including the likes of Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, Freedom House and the Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index among others.