Today’s Cache | Twitter’s anti-propaganda team grapples with Chinese spam accounts on lockdown protests

“Outgunned Twitter staff” are trying to fight back the stream of spam linked to the Chinese language versions of the city names Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Zhengzhou, and Lanzhou

Updated - November 28, 2022 08:25 pm IST

Published - November 28, 2022 01:33 pm IST

A protester shouts slogans against China‘s strict zero COVID measures in Beijing, China.

A protester shouts slogans against China‘s strict zero COVID measures in Beijing, China. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

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China is witnessing anti-lockdown protests as the country’s zero-COVID policy is making its citizens speak out against the draconian measures. As protests spread across cities, China’s state-backed accounts are reportedly spamming hashtags on Twitter, according to a report by Washington Post.

For example, looking up “Beijing” in Chinese showed several popular videos of the protests and gatherings taking place. However, when looking at the latest tweets using the hashtag, viewers were exposed to adult services, explicit media, and gambling portals. Many posters appeared to be bot accounts or those with very little authentic activity before the anti-government protests picked up speed.

“Outgunned Twitter staff” are trying to fight back the stream of spam linked to the Chinese language versions of the city names Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Zhengzhou, and Lanzhou, said journalist Joseph Menn in a tweet.

Zhengzhou, in the Henan province, is a key iPhone manufacturing centre. The factory was rocked by protests and violent clashes a few days earlier after confusion about hiring, mass quarantines, worker bonuses, and thousands of employees being locked down as part of China’s zero-tolerance approach to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those protesting have tried to share such videos online to raise awareness about their plight.

Following billionaire Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter in late October, the company’s staff of around 7,500 people fell to roughly 2,000 after mass layoffs and hundreds of resignations.

Activists and researchers had warned that the sudden loss of manpower could affect how efficiently staff dealt with spam on a mass scale and ensured access to vital information during anti-regime protests.

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