- A number of Twitter users spotted sponsored posts from Chinese state media criticising the ongoing Hong Kong protests.
- The sponsored posts describe the protests as violent and destructive, and portray Hong Kong citizens as being in favour of ending them.
- Hong Kong has been protesting against the Chinese government for 11 weeks, and organisers say 1.7 million people joined a peaceful rally on Sunday.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Twitter has been distributing ads from Chinese state media criticising the Hong Kong protests, as spotted by the account of social media bookmarking site Pinboard, run by entrepreneur and developer Maciej Ceg?owski.
The posts are from China’s Xinhua News Agency, which is state-run. “Two months on, the escalating violence in Hong Kong has taken a heavy toll on the social order,” one tweet reads, adding that “all walks of life in Hong Kong called for a brake to be put on the blatant violence and for order to be restored.”
A second sponsored tweet portrayed the public sentiment in Hong Kong to be at odds with the protests, saying “Hong Kong citizens call for stopping violence, ending chaos and restoring order in the city,” while another pushed a video which described Hong Kong’s economy as deteriorating, although it did not explicitly link this to the protests.
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
The ongoing Hong Kong protests, now in their eleventh week, were sparked by now-shelved new extradition laws which would allow citizens to be extradited to and tried in mainland China, where they would not be privy to the civil rights protections preserved in Hong Kong.
Protesters were out in force in a peaceful protest on Sunday, with as many as 1.7 million in attendance according to CNN.
Twitter is banned in China, blocked by the country’s “Great Firewall” along with Facebook, Google, and numerous other US tech companies. It’s likely that the sponsored tweets are looking to convince a more international audience of the Chinese government’s stance on the Hong Kong protests.
Ceg?owski, who attended the protests, described the promoted tweets from Chinese outlets as “lies.”
“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, ” he wrote. “What greets me is straight up lies from Xinhua about “bands of thugs”, courtesy of Twitter advertising.”
It’s not clear how long the ads have been running, or exactly where in the world they’ve been distributed using Twitter’s marketing tools.
Twitter was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider.