Home USA News Twitter downloads in China, but spam overwhelms search for news about protests

Twitter downloads in China, but spam overwhelms search for news about protests


Downloads of China’s Twitter app appear to have surged amid the unrest, but searches for news about mass protests overwhelmingly return spam and porn, suggesting the communist regime may be using the social media platform to silence dissent.

Twitter ranked 10th among all free apps downloaded from Apple’s App Store in China on Tuesday, up from 150th last week, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower. The app has soared in China’s ratings in recent days as protesters demonstrated against the communist regime’s COVID-19 lockdown.

China has long restricted access to Twitter, but it remains accessible to people who successfully use virtual private networks and other mechanisms to bypass the technical block, also known as the Great Firewall.

Whether the increase in downloads is due to its use by protesters against China’s COVID-19 lockdown is not yet known, but Western journalists have used the platform to spread news of people gathering in the streets and police arrests.

A Twitter search of Chinese cities like Beijing turns up spam and pornographic content instead of information about the riots.

Alex Stamos of the Stanford Internet Observatory expanded on the analysis, which found that more than 95% of tweets returned in response to searches for the term Beijing came from spam accounts.

SEE ALSO: China doubles down on tight control over COVID and tries to end protests

“I wasn’t really thinking about leaving Twitter before this PRC spam operation,” Mr. Stamos said on Twitter on Monday. “We are fast approaching the point where any political discussion will be dominated by organized influence groups and more frivolous topics by spam.”

The surge in Twitter downloads in China and spam messages that are sparking a stunning outcry also come as Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk said Apple is threatening to remove the social media platform from its App Store.

“Apple has also threatened to shut down Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why,” Mr Musk said on Twitter on Monday.

Apple’s business relies on Chinese workers. The world’s largest iPhone factory is located in China and faced a worker revolt last week, according to CNN.

The US tech behemoth has reportedly made changes to its products that could limit the effectiveness of information sharing in China.

The file-sharing tool AirDrop, available on Apple devices, was updated earlier this month with new restrictions that limit how widely information can be shared and how long messages can be shared in China, according to Quartz, which said protesters in Hong Kong previously used a communication tool.

Apple is far from the only American technology company operating in China. For example, Mr. Musk’s Tesla makes cars in China, and Mr. Musk hosted the Chinese ambassador at Tesla’s California factory earlier this year, the Chinese Embassy in D.C. documented on its website.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

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