Twitter And Facebook Removing Chinese Disinfo Campaigns Shows That, Contrary To Popular Opinion, They Do Moderate Against Disinfo

from the moderation-happens dept

Leaving aside the ridiculous and ignorant suggestions from some that no internet platforms should moderate anything, many, many people seem to believe (incorrectly) that the various internet companies refuse to moderate anything because it goes against their bottom lines. We've heard this from a number of politicians -- especially among those seeking to change Section 230, arguing (again, incorrectly) that because of Section 230 there's somehow no incentive to moderate content on their platforms.

This is wrong on multiple levels. There is tremendous business, political, moral, and social pressure to moderate content on these platforms. When they get it wrong, they get criticized. They can lose users. And (importantly) they can lose advertisers, partners, customers and investors. There is demand for "healthy" platforms, and it's Section 230 that allows them to experiment and moderate accordingly. That's why it's notable to me that both Twitter and Facebook announced the removal of what appears to be a coordinated attempt to abuse both platforms to push disinformation against protesters in Hong Kong. Here's Facebook's announcement:

Today, we removed seven Pages, three Groups and five Facebook accounts involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a small network that originated in China and focused on Hong Kong. The individuals behind this campaign engaged in a number of deceptive tactics, including the use of fake accounts — some of which had been already disabled by our automated systems — to manage Pages posing as news organizations, post in Groups, disseminate their content, and also drive people to off-platform news sites. They frequently posted about local political news and issues including topics like the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government.

And here's Twitter's announcement:

This disclosure consists of 936 accounts originating from within the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Overall, these accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground. Based on our intensive investigations, we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation. Specifically, we identified large clusters of accounts behaving in a coordinated manner to amplify messages related to the Hong Kong protests.

As Twitter is blocked in PRC, many of these accounts accessed Twitter using VPNs. However, some accounts accessed Twitter from specific unblocked IP addresses originating in mainland China. The accounts we are sharing today represent the most active portions of this campaign; a larger, spammy network of approximately 200,000 accounts — many created following our initial suspensions — were proactively suspended before they were substantially active on the service.

Despite common perception, both companies have put a lot of effort into discovering and stopping these kinds of efforts. Of course, none of it will be perfect, because content moderation at scale is impossible to do well. Mistakes of both false positives and false negatives are inevitable. But, if anyone thinks that modifying Section 230 will magically make companies better at this, they're not paying attention. Adding more liability to companies over their moderation choices won't make these efforts any better or any easier -- they might just bog the companies down in lawsuits.

Filed Under: cda 230, china, coordinated inauthentic behavior, disinformation, hong kong, misinformation, section 230
Companies: facebook, twitter


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Aug 2019 @ 4:59pm

    OH Great!! Now we are going to hear all the nut jobs rant about how social media has an anti-communist bias and how people are unfairly being de-platformed just for being a communist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Seattle, 19 Aug 2019 @ 5:10pm

    "seven Pages, three Groups and five Facebook accounts" Umm.... I'm not really impressed with the numbers here. It's got to be the lowest of the low-hanging fruit for a country with a population of 1.420 billion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Aug 2019 @ 5:28pm

      Re:

      “I’m not really impressed”

      Your a trolling account that uses random names and The same bad arguments over and over in different ways that now everyone knows your just one guy blue lol if you were on Twitter you would have been Alex Jones before people got tired of him lol and people gave that ass a lot of room to move for the sake of the first amendment myself included before he got kicked out of that bar.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        TFG, 19 Aug 2019 @ 5:45pm

        Re: Re:

        I'm pretty sure that's not Blue. Not ranty enough. Also, lack of being impressed is aimed at Facebook rather than TechDirt.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Aug 2019 @ 5:53pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          He’s whatever gets him what he wants like his president. he old be a corporation hating communist if it helped him in the moment. “Key word moment”

          Plus his current name being Seattle is as subtle as a submarine who’s pinging wildly. You start to realize his calling cards.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Aug 2019 @ 12:55am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Probably not Blue/Baghdad Bob. Note that the snarky one-liner actually comes with a point. An assortment of 15 url's IS indeed not too impressive for a country the size of China.

          The lithmus test for a genuine out-of-the-blue Baghdad bob rant is that snarky triumphant tone when pointing out a state of affairs which can not be found anywhere in factual reality.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2019 @ 8:02am

      Re:

      Not when they are government employees that the government can trust to not change sides when they see the objectives of the protesters..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 19 Aug 2019 @ 5:47pm

    That supposed Chinese disinformation is only their conservative views. The conspiracy continues. Stop letting Twitter and Facebook off the hook.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Aug 2019 @ 6:44pm

      Re:

      And now his names pixilation.

      These kind of sock puppet arguments may work over at Fox News because that place is 100% opinion driven political goal activism with “news” under the banner to make it look legit but like I said earlier blue:

      You become predictable.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Aug 2019 @ 7:27pm

        Re: Re:

        Woosh!

        Not Blue. Thanks. You didn't catch the sarcasm.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        TFG, 20 Aug 2019 @ 5:11am

        Re: Re:

        You kinda suck at this Blue spotting thing. Pixelation's a pretty common commenter.

        Look, I'll lay it out for you: Blue picks a stupid name that is a pun, Not just a single word. Something along the lines of "Pal in drone strikes." Pixelation or Seattle don't fit the pattern.

        Blue then types out a multi-paragraph rant with sections derogatory toward TechDirt and Mike in particular, and never makes an actual valid point.

        Now granted, its possible he's changing tactics after realizing that this makes him easy to spot, but I don't think he has the wherewithal to do so. I'd really suggest stepping back from the blue-spotting thing, you're firing your guns at the wrong people.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2019 @ 11:32am

      Re:

      Fucknutbook was running their own disinformation a few years back as a social experiment, weren't they? Don't let them off that hook.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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