Twitter restricts account of China expert for tweets on Xi Jinping, restores access later

During the CCP’s 100th anniversary celebrations earlier this week, Prof Brady had tweeted an opinion article which she had written for the Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian news website, suggesting an alternative headline which mocked Xi Jinping.
Professor Anne-Marie Brady of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand is an expert on China and its political influence and is also a critic of the country’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).(AP)
Professor Anne-Marie Brady of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand is an expert on China and its political influence and is also a critic of the country’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).(AP)
Published on Jul 06, 2021 05:22 PM IST
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Byhindustantimes.com | Written by Srivatsan K C | Edited by Avik Roy, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

An academician from New Zealand on Monday said that her Twitter account was restricted over the weekend following her tweets mocking Chinese President Xi Jinping. However, she later confirmed that the access to her account was restored on Monday.

What happened?

Professor Anne-Marie Brady of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand is an expert on China and its political influence and is also a critic of the country’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

During the CCP’s 100th anniversary celebrations earlier this week, Prof Brady had tweeted an opinion article which she had written for the Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian news website, suggesting an alternative headline which mocked Xi Jinping. “Alternative headline: "Xi: Its my Party and I'll cry if I want to" #CPC100Years,” she tweeted on July 1 (IST). In a subsequent tweet, she also shared an image of the Chinese leader and said “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

She pointed out that many leaders had wished the CCP for its 90th anniversary while the 100th-year celebrations garnered wishes from very few leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

However, on June 5, she said that access to her twitter account was restricted after the two tweets were made unavailable. “Seems like @Twitter may have briefly forgotten they don't work for Xi Jinping,” she tweeted, blaming the company for silencing the critics of CCP.

Later, she confirmed that her access to the account has been restored. “Opening my work laptop this morning I was greeted by a "Welcome back" message on my screen from @Twitter, as if I was the one who left them,” she tweeted.

She also thanked Edward Lucas, a columnist for The Times newspaper in England for his complaints to Twitter. She said that she couldn’t get any reply from the company. “After those tweets were made "unavailable", my account was then restricted. Thanks @edwardlucas for raising this with @Twitter, as I got no reply to my messages to them,” she tweeted.

Why was Prof Brady’s account restricted?

Edward Lucas, in his column, wrote that Twitter’s decision to restrict Brady’s account was probably because of a “concerted campaign by the Chinese Communist Party’s online agents.”

“After I had stoked a furore on Twitter and sent umpteen complaints, her account was restored. Less prominent victims of Chinese censorship would have scantier chances of redress. But the episode highlights the way in which the internet, which we once hailed as a haven for free speech, now makes us much less safe,” Lucas wrote in The Times.

Twitter’s reaction

According to a report by the Associated Press, Twitter had denied any attempts to suppress speech. The company also said that when it detects unusual activity from an account, temporary notices are added until a confirmation is obtained 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. We advocate for a free, global and open internet and remain a staunch defender of freedom of expression,” the AP reported, citing a statement from Twitter.

(With inputs from AP)

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Wednesday, December 01, 2021