As I heard some time ago, Twitter blocked about 200k accounts of HongKong protests unsupporters (source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hongkong-protests-twitter/twitter-facebook-accuse-china-of-using-fake-accounts-to-undermine-hong-kong-protests-idUSKCN1V91NX). Action was explained as bot banning.

Can it be treated as one-side political censorship? Of course, some of those accounts may be bots, but do each and every of them?

Of course, Twitter has its own content policies, and it have right to do so. Also, that may be a result of political pressure (position of US goverment toward these protests is known : https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/3023490/mike-pence-urges-china-respect-hong-kong-laws-amid-protests).

Question is about meaning and name of this action, not about Twitter's right to do so (of course, it CAN do it, as it is a private company).

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    If a political entity is spreading misinformation and lies as part of their political agenda, is censoring that content and those accounts an act of political censorship, or is it censoring the dissemination of false and misleading information, regardless of political affiliation? Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 19:24
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    Is there some significance to defining it one way or another? Or is this just asking how someone might define those words? Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 20:50

4 Answers 4


Sure. Everyone gets a perspective, so if, to you, that constitutes political censorship, then I can see how that argument gets made.

But the flip side of that argument is true also. If the majority of those 200,000 accounts were bots meant to stifle speech from their political opponents, then the argument can be made that Twitter is trying to do something to see that an open dialogue exists on their platform. Whether they are successful or not in that pursuit is a different question. If a few unsuspecting "real" people get caught up in the purge, Twitter does have a process that should allow real people to restore access to their accounts.

Automated bots attempting to manipulate others is an issue that Twitter needs to address, because for some reason "follower counts" and "number of retweets" have become meaningful to some people in this day and age. To ensure that it's not just a few people trying to monopolize the platform, I can understand from time to time they will need to take action and, like most companies, Twitter is run by human people who sometimes make mistakes.


The correct term for a service voluntarily removing content from its own site is moderation.

Some form of moderation is basically essential if you want to run a communications service between humans, because otherwise the service will be drowned in spam. This was true in the days of USENET and it remains true now. It's impossible to remove all spam, but the spam you see on Twitter is a small fraction of what's remaining.

Twitter have also noticed that high rates of users abusing each other will drive people off the platform entirely, so they choose to ban accounts they deem "abusive".


Only if censoring propaganda counts.

Propaganda is information that is not objective and is used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is presented.1 Propaganda is often associated with material prepared by governments, but activist groups, companies, religious organizations and the media can also produce propaganda.

Corporate censorship is highly under-represented in political discussions. It however is no simple censorship. Companies like Facebook, Twitter or Google have tremendous capacity to influence the masses through wide variety of methods. Banning users or removing content is of course on the hard side of control/influence, while adjusting algorithms governing visibility or recommendations is a soft, but very real and insidiously hard to detect, way of influencing.

However issue is more complex than that. YouTube creates "distortions that might result from a simplistic focus on showing people videos they found irresistible, creating filter bubbles, for example, that only show people content that reinforces their existing view of the world", which stems from Google's single minded focus on making YouTube viewers keep watching, generating ad revenue. Make no mistake, Facebook and Twitter obviously do the same, but optimise of other parameters. At the same time there are "state actors" and other organisations abusing corporate algorithms running social media as tool for propaganda.

With enough resources, it is possible to flood network with "bot" accounts, appearing human enough just enough to create impression of certain opinions being more widespread then they really are. This creates effect of "normalising" fringe ideas. To give an example, closeted racist will become vocal if s/he perceives high level of support. Alternatively, undecided people might conform to "fake" majority. For methodology you can think of "vocal minority" drowning out majority, except minority is even smaller but uses understanding of internal workings of platforms for "force multiplication".

Similarly, with enough resources it's possible to influence algorithms. Algorithms are based on machine learning. General idea is as follows: if viewers A and B show similar interests, by watching similar things, then they are likely to like same things, right? It is reasonable, then, to recommend to A anything they haven't seen that B has, and the opposite, recommend to B anything they haven't seen that A has. Repeat for billions of users. Conceptually, that's it. Very complex mathematics govern details of analysing data from over billion of users, but concept boils down to description above. But, what about new or unknown content? If no one has seen it, how can algorithm know if anyone might like it? Computers can, barely, understand titles, but can't understand content, yet. This is where external influence can come in, by using scripts it's possible to create fake users: have your script play dozens of videos, most ordinary but interspersed with something you want to promote and corporate algorithm will record that. If you have enough resources, you can, from user side, "convince" algorithm to start recommending video you want to promote.

Fight over digital platforms is a very real one. Companies want to have influence of publishers while being safe from civil and criminal liability the way utilities are. Different organisations of varying sizes abuse digital platforms for their own ends. Legislature throughout the world is outdated and out of balance between user rights, corporate privileges, safety and security. Act that sparked your question, is merely another episode of that "war".

All in all, by pure definition, yes, it is censorship. However, Twitter censored propaganda, which I don't think counts as infringing on anyone's speech.

Question of oversight over companies and their digital platforms is long overdue, and answer to this question, or lack of thereof will shape the future.

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    What's the definition of 'objective'? Pretty much anything related to politics is opinion which in the very best of circumstances is supported by selective facts. Unfortunately, in today's day and age, many political opinions don't even bother with the facts part of the equation any longer. With that said, determining if something is propaganda or not is almost exclusively based on a person's political agenda. IOW, censoring 'propaganda' is EXACTLY the same thing as censoring 'political speech'.
    – Dunk
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 21:06

Twitter is a private company. They can pretty much do anything they want. Their limitations are customers (Advertisers) and SEC regulations. You as the audience can also do what you want as far as using or not using their service.

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