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What drowned out coverage of protests in China over the weekend on Twitter?

Answer: “Useless tweets” from bots.

A finger pointing to a Twitter logo illuminated blue in the dark.
China saw widespread protests erupt over the weekend, mostly in response to the country’s strict COVID-19 protocols. The Associated Press is calling it “the biggest show of opposition to the ruling Communist Party in decades.” But don’t even try to get any information about it on Twitter.

The social media platform, once a popular site for real-time updates on breaking news such as this, was reportedly flooded with tweets from spam accounts intended to drown out any real news on the protests. These accounts were putting the names of Chinese cities where demonstrations were occurring into “useless tweets,” per the Washington Post.

These tweets, which were mostly advertisements for pornography and adult escort services, were posted so frequently that they drowned out any real updates. A former Twitter employee said that the current changes at the company brought about by its new owner, Elon Musk, may be to blame. They told the Post that the anti-propaganda team that would have normally been manually removing these spam accounts is too small to keep up due to the recent layoffs, firings and resignations. “All the China influence operations and analysts at Twitter all resigned,” they said.