Twitter announced Thursday that it had shut down more than 170,000 accounts tied to the Chinese government. Experts working with Twitter who reviewed the accounts said they pushed deceptive narratives around the Hong Kong protests, COVID-19, and other topics.
The company said the accounts were "spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China" and were removed for violating its platform manipulation policies.
Twitter is officially blocked in China, though many people in the country are able to access it using a VPN. Among the targets of the Chinese campaign were overseas Chinese "in an effort to exploit their capacity to extend the party-state's influence," according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a group Twitter worked with to analyze the accounts. Twitter said the accounts tweeted "predominantly in Chinese languages."
On June 12, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) issued a report analyzing what is says is a "persistent, large-scale influence campaign linked to Chinese state actors" on Twitter and Facebook.
At the end of the report, it notes that ASPI's work is supported by defense contractors Lockheed Martin, Thales, and Naval Group (although it is unclear if those were the entities that supported this specific research).
Other ASPI donors include Northrop Grumman, Jacobs, MBDA, SAAB, Raytheon Australia, and Austal. It also receives money from the US State Department.
Sponsors to the think tank's International Cyber Policy Centre (ICPC) include Microsoft, Amazon, Google, National Archives of Australia (NAA), and the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre (CSCRC).
A larger list of funders, which include the Embassy of Japan and Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECRO), can be found in its most recent annual report here.
The Global Times, published by the People's Daily, the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party, recently slammed ASPI for "hyping up anti-China issues."
In March, ASPI said it has one of the largest concentrations of Chinese-language speakers in any think tank in Australia.
In February, the Australian Financial Review said ASPI has "become a flashpoint in the breakdown of consensus in Beijing."
Canberra-headquartered ASPI was founded in 2001 and has a staff of 55 in full-time, part-time, and "casual" positions.