US politicians urge Twitter to ban Chinese diplomats’ accounts
US political pressure is building on Twitter to ban use of the social media platform by Chinese diplomats, some of whom have used it to spread conspiracy theories blaming the global coronavirus pandemic on the US military, Tom Mitchell reports.
In a letter to Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey released on Saturday, two US politicians, Ben Sasse and Mike Gallagher, said Chinese diplomats were using Twitter, which is blocked in China, to “disseminate propaganda … [that] obscures and confuses users over the origins of Covid-19 and potentially undermines efforts to contain and control the outbreak”.
Chinese diplomats and other government officials use special software to bypass the “great firewall” that censors Twitter and many other foreign social media sites in China.
“Access to social media platforms should be denied to government officials from countries that prohibit their own populations from accessing this content,” Mr Sasse, a Nebraska senator, and Mr Gallagher, a Wisconsin House member, added. Both are Republicans.
Increasingly bitter exchanges between Washington and Beijing about the origins of the disease, which US President Donald Trump publicly refers to as “the Chinese virus”, have become intertwined with the expulsions of dozens of Chinese and US journalists over recent weeks.
On Friday, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman asked if the Trump administration’s recent expulsion of 60 Chinese journalists was “an attempt to block access to information on the epidemic in the US”.
He added: “Did the US anticipate that the epidemic would spread at home in a month and fear that the Chinese media would expose the situation … are they trying to hide anything?”
On Saturday, the Chinese foreign ministry’s chief spokesperson, Hua Chunying, took to Twitter to mock the Trump administration’s much-criticised handling of the worsening pandemic within its own borders, as China reported no new cases from internal transmission for the third straight day.
“US AID promised to give some medical supplies to China, but was not ready until March 11,” Ms Hua wrote. “Given the fast spreading of the pandemic around the world, we have thanked the US and suggested to give them to those more needed [sic] asap.”
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