Twitter’s Appointment of New Director Raises Concerns of Chinese Influence

In this photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone on May 27, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. - US President Donald Trump threatened Wednesday to shutter social media platforms after Twitter for the first time acted against his false tweets, prompting the enraged Republican to double down on unsubstantiated claims and conspiracy theories. Twitter tagged two of Trump's tweets in which he claimed that more mail-in voting would lead to what he called a "Rigged Election" this November. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Source: Epoch Times, BY NATHAN SU, June 11, 2020

petition to the White House has recently been filed calling for investigation into Twitter’s suppression of criticisms of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), after the U.S. social media company appointed a new director having “close ties to top leaders of the CCP.”

The petition, titled “Call for a thorough investigation on Twitter’s violation of freedom of speech,” was filed on May 20. The petition states, “Twitter has suppressed criticisms of CCP and suspended [China’s political] dissent’s accounts while pro-Beijing accounts live well.”

So far the on-line petition has received more than twenty-seven thousand supporting signatures.

The popular San Francisco based social media platform announced on May 11 the appointment of Dr. Li Fei-Fei to the Company’s Board of Directors as a new independent director. Li was former Vice President and Chief AI Scientist at Google Cloud and led the internet search giant in its efforts to build its China AI operations.

Critics Suspended, Propaganda Continues

According to the petition, “on May 18, 2020, not surprisingly, many anti-CCP twitter users found themselves suspended, some permanently.”

One week after Li joined Twitter’s board of directors, Caijinglenyan (財經冷眼), a Chinese twitter handle, was taken down for violating rules against posting identical content on duplicate accounts. The writer of the account found that four of his accounts were deleted.

The writer believes his accounts were cancelled because he exposed the “red background” of Li and alleged Twitter’s new director was a member of a student association that was affiliated with the CCP’s United Front Department.

The writer stated that he had only posted the content on one of his accounts, and retweeted the original post on his other accounts. He argued that Twitter does not have a policy that prevents a user from having more than one account.

The writer also said that one of his twitter followers claimed that his account was canceled simply because he tweeted: “Li Fei-Fei is coming, I have to run.”

Twitter has been banned in China. However, the ban does not prevent all levels of CCP officers and China’s state-owned media from having Twitter accounts outside of China. Using the U.S. social media as a platform, Beijing has been effectively spreading its propaganda to the Western World.

For instance, Hua Chunying, China’s State Department spokesperson, has tweeted out many propaganda statements through her account @SpokespersonCHN.

On May 5, Hua tweeted an article published by China Xinhua News denying that Wuhan was the origin of COVID-19. Xinhua News is CCP’s official mouthpiece, which Chinese people often criticize as publishing nothing but lies, except for the day’s date.

Xinhua News has held the account @XHNews since February 2012. On June 8, Xinhua News tweeted its own article: “Overseas observers speak highly of China’s white paper on #COVID19, saying it brings great inspiration to the global battle against the pandemic”

The article quoted the statements made by media or officials from Namibia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, and Ecuador praising how the Chinese regime dealt with the pandemic.

The Chinese State Department’s other spokesman, Zhao Lijian, tweeted in early March stating “it might be the US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.”

The twitter accounts of Hua, Zhao, and Xinghua News are currently in normal operations.

Li Fei-Fei’s Ties to China

Li, Twitter’s newly appointed director, has been well known for her ties with the CCP. Li led Google Cloud to set up its AI operation partnering with China’s top AI institute at Tsinghua University.

Tsinghua’s AI operation reportedly received more than 100 million yuan ($14.53 million) from the Science and Technology Committee of China’s Central Military Commission—a Party organ that oversees the military—to work on an AI project for the military.

At the launch event of Google’s AI Center in China in December 2017, Chinese media portal Sina reported that Li told the audience that she started pushing the idea to set up an AI center in China with the CEOs of Google and Google Cloud right after she joined the company in January 2017.

Li was also cited in a December 2017 report by Chinese news portal as saying: “China is like a sleeping giant. When she wakes, she will shake the world.”

She added that China had already awakened in the AI world, the report stated.

According to a CNN report, Li is a U.S. citizen, who immigrated from China with her parents in 1992 when she was 16.

She graduated from Princeton University in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in physics, and completed a doctorate at the California Institute of Technology in 2005. She served as the director of Stanford’s AI research lab from 2013 to 2018.

Many Chinese media outlets and regime officials have heaped praise on Li, touting her as an outstanding talent in the field of AI.

She was one of the winners of the 2017–2018 “You Bring Charm to the World Award,” an award sponsored by several Chinese media outlets and presented to Chinese individuals who influence the world’s view of the country.

In December 2017, she was reportedly named by the Chinese think tank Center for China and Globalization as among the 50 most successful Chinese who have studied abroad. The recognition was announced at a conference convened by several government agencies.

The Chinese regime has sought to use overseas-trained Chinese experts and professionals to expand its influence abroad.

In 2015, the Party’s United Front Work Department, a body tasked with running the regime’s influence operations overseas, specifically designated a new focus of working with Chinese individuals who have received foreign education, the state-run China Daily reported.

Li’s past history working with Chinese organizations controlled by CCP was apparently the main reason that triggered the petition to the White House.

Concerns About Chinese Regime’s Influence

Two U.S. lawmakers, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) sent a letter to CEO Jack Dorsey of Twitter on March 20, urging the social media company to block the access to Twitter for any foreign officials that ban the use of Twitter in their own countries, especially the Chinese officials.

The People’s Republic of China “blocks public access to Twitter yet uses your service to promote its propaganda,” says the lawmakers in the letter. The letter also says: “by banning Twitter in China, the Chinese Communist Party is keeping its citizens in the dark. By putting propaganda on Twitter, the Chinese Communist Party is lying to the rest of the world.”

“While the coronavirus pandemic is afflicting families, governments, and markets around the world, the Chinese Communist Party is waging a massive propaganda campaign to rewrite the history of COVID-19 and whitewash the Party’s lies to the Chinese people and the world,” states the letter.

The Chinese regime has long sought to influence global media, and to suppress any reporting critical of the regime. A March 2019 report by Reporters Without Borders states that the Chinese regime has waged a war against global media under the guise of “combatting ‘hostile’ Western forces.” Within China, state TV channels have broadcast at least 29 forced confessions involving journalists or bloggers since 2013.

In November 2018, Stanford University’s Hoover Institution published a report documenting the extent of China’s influence operations inside the United States. The 200 page-long report, titled “Chinese Influence & American Interests,” summarizes the Chinese regime’s influence on the U.S. Congress, state and local governments in the United States, and U.S. universities, think tanks, corporations, and technology and research.

The current White House petition calls for “a thorough investigation on Twitter’s violation of freedom of speech, and on Dr. Fei Fei Li’s collaborations with CCP, a threat to national security.”

The Epoch Times has contacted Twitter for comments about the on-going petition, but received no response by the press time.


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