Twitter ‘accidentally’ suspends Chinese dissidents' accounts ahead of Tiananmen Square anniversary

‘These accounts were not mass reported by the Chinese authorities – this was a routine action on our part,’ Twitter says

Anthony Cuthbertson
Monday 03 June 2019 19:22
Comments
The Tiananmen square protest

Twitter has removed hundreds of accounts critical of China ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, including some belonging to noted dissidents.

The social network apologised, explaining many Chinese-language accounts had been suspended as part of a crackdown on spam and fakery, and that some legitimate accounts had inadvertently been caught up.

China is renowned for its strict online censorship, and has blocked Facebook, Google and Twitter. Students and activists inside the country still access them, however, using anonymising virtual private network (VPN) software to bypass the so-called Great Firewall of China.

Online content relating to the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square – during which government troops shot and killed hundreds of students – is also heavily monitored and censored.

China has ramped up surveillance and censorship efforts in the build-up to the anniversary of the massacre on 4 June, with state censors reportedly introducing a number of new technologies in order to monitor dissidents across social media.

Twitter apologised for suspending the accounts, insisting it was not a response to actions by Chinese authorities.

“These accounts were not mass-reported by the Chinese authorities – this was a routine action on our part,” the firm said in a statement.

“Sometimes our routine actions catch false positives or we make errors.”

The company added: “We apologise. We’re working today to ensure we overturn any errors but that we remain vigilant in enforcing our rules for those who violate them.”

Critics of Chinese censorship pointed out some of the suspended accounts included ones belonging to prominent dissidents.

“More accounts have been suspended than I can keep up,” tweeted Yaxue Cao, editor of the US-based publication China Change, which reports human rights issues in the country.

Ms Yaxue questioned Twitter’s official explanation of why the accounts were suspended, saying: “That doesn’t make sense.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in