Concerns have surfaced regarding censorship on Twitter related to anti-China tweets since the appointment of Fei-Fei Li as an independent director to the Board of Twitter in May 2020. Li joined Twitter after quitting as chief scientist of Google’s artificial intelligence/machine learning initiative following a controversy surrounding the tech giant’s Project Maven.
The concerns are especially consequential given the manner in which Twitter has refused to cooperate with the Indian Government over malicious accounts fanning dangerous conspiracy theories which could create law and order problems in India.
Fei-Fei Li is believed to be instrumental in the setting up of a Google AI lab in China suspected on involvement in Project Dragonfly touted to be a search engine that would align with the surveillance regime of China.
“They seem to have ignored the backstory of Li’s previous cooperation with China,” said Wang Longmeng, a France-based commentator. “Li Fei-fei … secretly opposed Google’s cooperation with the U.S. Department of Defense from a high moral standpoint … but turned a blind eye to Project Dragonfly, in which Google was planning to help the Chinese Communist Party vet online speech,” he said.
According to Wang, Li was one of the “loopholes” that democratic countries will have to plug. According to reports, Fei-Fei Li is also an adviser to China’s Tsinghua University. The University’s Vice-President has said that one of the main purposes of the University’s AI Research is fulfil national defense needs under a “military-civilian integration policy.” She has extensive ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including the CCP’s United Front Work.
It is further reported that multiple Twitter accounts which had criticised her appointment had been suspended a week after her appointment without rhyme or reason. According to India Today, the Twitter account of one of their own reporters was affected after he interviewed the father of soldier Subedar Nyima Tenzin from the Special Frontier Force (SFF) during the conflict between India and China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The India Today report says, “Reporting from the ground, India Today’s @AbhishekBhalla7 managed to interview the father of a solider injured in a mine blast. This interview went viral and further irked the Chinese establishment now that the SFF and that its soldiers regularly fought against China as part of the Indian Army was no secret.”
“Bhalla’s Twitter handle went kaput soon after; “unusual activity” cited on the restricted page. It was taken up with the Twitter India team and the account was restored soon after,” it added. Twitter, however, said, “We would like to reiterate that the account was never suspended. The reporter was facing a login related issue which was resolved quickly.”
Furthermore, in late August, @ChinarCorpsIA, an official handle of the Indian Army, was allegedly shadow banned. Other OSINT handles critical of Twitter faced similar issues. Speaking to India Today in September 2020, Solomon Yue, Vice-Chairman and CEO at Republicans Overseas, called for a US-Senate level hearing on Twitter’s shadowban.
He told the news network, “What I like to see is that Twitter users who have experienced shadow banning of CCP critics by Twitter gather their evidences while my friends in the US Senate to hold a Senate Committee hearing based on their evidences. Twitter is not supposed to regulate free speech when it was exempted from users’ legal actions by Congress.”