The social media giant Twitter temporarily restricted the account of a New Zealand academic over the weekend, for posting Tweets mocking the Chinese President, Xi Jinping and the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of CCP. Anne-Marie Brady, a professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, confirmed that two of her tweets were temporarily marked ‘unavailable’ by Twitter and her account was temporarily blocked over the weekend before it was restored on Monday.
The professor, who is a vocal critic of the Communist government in China, had in her posts mocked the party’s 100th-anniversary celebrations. Brady’s tweets poked fun at the CCP government for celebrating its centenary saying that it lacked international validation.
In one tweet, Brady even went on to suggest an alternative headline for a news article about the celebrations: “Xi: it’s my Party and I’ll cry if I want to”.
This did not go down well with the microblogging site which marked her Tweets as “unavailable” and restricted her account, that too without explaining as to what prompted them to do so.
Edward Lucas, a columnist for The Times newspaper in Britain, opined that the temporary suspension was probably a result of the online campaign of complaints by Communist Party agents. This he said might have triggered an automatic response from Twitter while it investigated the complaints.
“After I had stoked a furore on Twitter and sent umpteen complaints, her account was restored,” Lucas wrote. “Less prominent victims of Chinese censorship would have scantier chances of redress.”
Thanking the journalist for his help, the professor tweeted after the restoration of her account: “Seems like @Twitter may have briefly forgotten they don’t work for Xi Jinping”.
Meanwhile, Twitter in its defence said in a statement that when it detects unusual activity from an account, it can sometimes add temporary notices until it gets confirmation from the account owner. “To set the record straight, the assertion that Twitter is in coordination with any government to suppress speech has no basis in fact whatsoever,” Twitter said, adding, “We advocate for a free, global and open internet and remain a staunch defender of freedom of expression.”
It is pertinent to note here, that several 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.
Li, is believed to be instrumental in the setting up of a Google AI lab in China suspected of involvement in Project Dragonfly touted to be a search engine that would align with the surveillance regime of China.
She has extensive ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including the CCP’s United Front Work. It was reported how multiple Twitter accounts which had criticised her appointment had been suspended without rhyme or reason.