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Twitter takes China head-on, finally

Updated August 10, 2020 21:42 IST
China is using its economic might to power its military machine
File photograph of Chinese soldiers in Beijing. India and China will hold military level talks next week (Xinhua/Zhang Yu/IANS)

China’s Xinhua News, one of the largest news agencies in the world, it’s largest newspaper People’s Daily, the national English language newspaper Global Times run under the People’s Daily, state-controlled broadcaster CGTN, CCTV and China Daily are amongst several major Chinese accounts that have been labeled as ‘state-affiliated media’ by Twitter for being controlled by the government.

“China blocks access to Twitter for regular users. We believe that people benefit from additional context when interacting with Chinese government and state-affiliated accounts. Labels on state-affiliated media accounts provide additional context about accounts that are controlled by certain official representatives of governments, state-affiliated media entities and individuals closely associated with those entities,” Twitter said in a blog post.

The label appears not just on the organization’s verified accounts but also on the profile page of their key personnel – like the Twitter handle of Hu Xijin, Editor-in-chief of Chinese and English editions of the Global Times – and on each and every Tweet sent by and shared from these accounts.

The Twitter accounts of Chinese diplomats, such as Cui Tiankai, the Chinese Ambassador to the US or Sun Weidong, the Chinese Ambassador to India, have also been labeled as ‘China government account’ to provide clarity.

Labels contain information about the country the account is affiliated with and whether it is operated by a government representative or state-affiliated media entity.

Additionally, these labels include a small icon of a flag to signal the account’s status as a government account and of a podium for state-affiliated media.

Twitter said that currently these labels appear on relevant Twitter accounts from the five countries that comprise the permanent membership of the UN Security Council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

It includes government accounts heavily engaged in geopolitics and diplomacy, state-affiliated media entities and individuals such as editors or high-profile journalists associated with state-affiliated media entities.

“At this time, we’re not labeling the personal accounts of heads of state, as these accounts enjoy widespread name recognition, media attention, and public awareness. Institutional accounts associated with their offices that changeover depending on election results will be labeled, however,” said Twitter.

While most in the business already knew about the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) deeply involved in the running of media organizations in the country, the latest move by Twitter will limit their functionality as the microblogging platform will no longer amplify state-affiliated media accounts or their Tweets through recommendation systems including on the home timeline, notifications, and search.

India Narrative has constantly updated its readers about how the pressure is building on Chinese President Xi Jinping after the huge failure of its much-hyped ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy. Hyper-nationalistic and outrageous rhetoric belted out by state-run tabloids like the Global Times has backfired terribly as China’s relations with not just the United States but several other nations, including India, have hit an all-time low.

Beijing has fallen victim to its own propaganda and wounded by inflammatory, most of the times incredulous, stuff published by its media since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and also the Galwan valley faceoff in Ladakh against India.

However, the lessons are still not being learnt by the authoritarian regime.

“From the suppression of Huawei to the robbery of TikTok, the aggression shown by the US has spread even to individual Twitter accounts; however, posts on Twitter would not be regarded as a threat to the US’ hegemony if the Trump administration is confident, observers said. Twitter’s move shows they are actively cooperating with the Trump administration to suppress voices from China,” the Global Times reported Friday calling it a ‘political move’ to satisfy Trump.

China is also questioning the move to exempt Twitter accounts like BBC and US state-funded media Voice of America. Twitter had, however, already clarified the reasons for not labeling them.

“We believe that people have the right to know when a media account is affiliated directly or indirectly with a state actor. State-financed media organizations with editorial independence, like the BBC in the UK or NPR in the US for example, will not be labeled. As part of the development of this process, we consulted with a number of expert groups, including members of the Digital and Human Rights Advisory group in Twitter’s Trust & Safety Council.”

Two months ago, Twitter had suspended over 1.73 lakh accounts for engaging in a range of manipulative and coordinated activities which favored and promoted the agenda of Chinese government.

“They were tweeting predominantly in Chinese languages and spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China (CCP), while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong,” Twitter haid said in a statement.

The fake network comprised a core network of 23,750 accounts and over 150,000 more acting as an amplifier network which were “strategically designed to artificially inflate impression metrics and engage with the core accounts.”

China, on the other hand, continues to cry for being the “biggest victim of disinformation” with many platforms spreading much falsehood about China.

Not every time a lie, even if it is repeated a thousand times, becomes the truth, especially in China’s case.

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