Democrats express ‘deep concern’ about reported Twitter suppression of protests in China

The Twitter application is seen on a digital device, April 25, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Three House Democrats sent a letter to Twitter CEO Elon Musk on Tuesday to express “deep concern” following reports of video evidence of protests in China being suppressed on the platform. 

Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (Ill.), Adam Schiff (Calif.) and Jackie Speier (Calif.) sent the letter to request information about recent “malicious” activities in China and any indication if the actions were directed by the Chinese government. 

The letter comes after some of the largest protests in decades have happened across the country for the past few weeks against the government’s strict “zero-COVID” policy, which tries to keep the number of COVID-19 cases to as close to zero as possible. 

The policy has resulted in entire neighborhoods and even cities being shut down as a result of cases. 

The protests stemmed from a fire last month in the city of Urumqi, which killed 10 people and injured nine. Protesters have argued that the country’s strict protocols slowed down firefighters and caused more people to die. 

The lawmakers said that Chinese officials have cracked down on protests as they have spread, beating and dragging protesters, but Chinese Communist Party censors removed videos of these incidents from the internet. They said Chinese-language accounts and bots spammed Twitter with various links to suppress news about the protests. 

They said the United States must understand the extent of China’s potential manipulation of Twitter and identify how any recent changes to the platform are affecting Chinese foreign influence operations on social media. 

Musk, who has called himself a free speech “absolutist,” has emphasized free speech on the platform since his deal to purchase Twitter went through in October and has expressed less of a willingness to moderate content users post. 

The House members asked Musk four questions about China’s use of Twitter in this situation, including whether Twitter has any indication that the obstruction of tweets on the protests was state-led and whether Twitter has the capacity to identify largescale misinformation, disinformation and information suppression. 

They requested answers by Dec. 31.

Tags Adam Schiff China protests Elon Musk Elon Musk Jackie Speier Raja Krishnamoorthi Twitter

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