Free Tibet, a London-based advocacy group, has identified nearly 100 fake Twitter accounts, which are being used to spread the Chinese government’s propaganda on Tibet on the microblogging site.
According to the New York Times, which reportedly assisted in the investigation, while there is no direct evidence to link the Chinese government to the fake accounts, “the content and breadth of the effort would suggest the involvement of a state actor.” The accounts reportedly portrayed the Chinese regions of Tibet and Xinjiang in a flattering light, despite decades of unrest in these regions.
“When it comes to Tibet, nothing that China does surprises us, but this appears to be something new,” Alistair Currie, media manager for Free Tibet, said, according to the Times.
The rights group also reportedly said that the fake accounts, which mostly had Western names, attacked the Dalai Lama and that they also portrayed Tibet as a "contented and idyllic Chinese province."
More than 130 people have reportedly set themselves on fire in Tibet since 2009 to protest China’s harsh policies in the region.
Some of the fake accounts were reportedly accompanied by profile pictures that included photos taken by professional photographers, while others featured stock images and photos of dead celebrities.
According to the Times, one account with the name Lydia May had a profile photo taken by a photographer from suburban Atlanta. This fake account had tweets showing that the user was annoyed by the Dalai Lama’s visit to the U.S. this year, while in another tweet the user shared with followers an article titled, “Xinjiang eyes housing, education for poverty mitigation.”
Free Tibet has reportedly urged Twitter CEO Dick Costolo to ensure that the social media service "cannot be used for deceptive propaganda interests of authoritarian regimes in the future." According to reports, by early Tuesday, Twitter had suspended many of the accounts identified in the report, but Free Tibet said that there are 100 more fake accounts yet to be identified.