According to University of Canterbury Professor Anne-Marie Brady, Twitter temporarily restricted her account after she “mocked” Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The New Zealand academic, described as “an expert on China’s attempts to exert political influence around the world” by the Associated Press, is “an outspoken critic of its ruling Communist Party.”
Brady claimed that two tweets that criticized Xi were temporarily censored, marked as “unavailable” by Twitter and that her account was temporarily restricted. Her profile was reportedly restored on Monday.
“Some of the biggest names in social media, from [Twitter] to [LinkedIn,] [Zoom] & [Facebook], appear to be getting into a habit of silencing CCP critics. Yesterday it was my turn to be censored,” Brady tweeted.
Edward Lucas, a columnist for The Times, argued that the move was probably sparked by an “online campaign of complaints by Communist Party agents which would have triggered an automatic response from Twitter while it investigated.”
“After I had stoked a furor on Twitter and sent umpteen complaints, her account was restored,” Lucas wrote. “Less prominent victims of Chinese censorship would have scantier chances of redress.”
“Seems like [Twitter] may have briefly forgotten they don’t work for Xi Jinping,” tweeted Brady on Sunday.
One of the restricted tweets was a suggested alternative headline for an opinion piece published by The Sydney Morning Herald, titled, “Xi’s hollow 100th birthday celebration for the Chinese Communist Party.”
“Alternative headline: ‘Xi: its my Party and I’ll cry if I want to,’” tweeted Brady.
— Professor Anne-Marie Brady (@Anne_MarieBrady) July 1, 2021
On Monday, Lucas wrote a piece for The Times titled, “Twitter must not buckle to Beijing’s pressure,” arguing that “The internet was meant to be our big liberator but China is turning it into the great oppressor.”
“Anne-Marie Brady is one of the world’s top China-watchers. Her sardonic, perceptive takes on Beijing’s influence operations and the West’s mostly weak-kneed response have earned her 20,000 Twitter followers,” Lucas wrote. “For most of yesterday, any outsider trying to visit her at [Anne-Marie Brady] was stopped by a warning screen. Get past that and some recent tweets were ‘unavailable.’”
“Searches for her drew a blank: she had become a digital unperson,” Lucas added.
Brady thanked Lucas for “raising this with [Twitter],” claiming that she “got no reply to [her] messages to them.”
In a statement, Twitter denied any wrongdoing, claiming that accusations of coordination with the Chinese regime to censor criticism “has no basis in fact whatsoever.”
“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. “We advocate for a free, global, and open internet and remain a staunch defender of freedom of expression.”
Such allegations against Twitter come during a time when the Chinese Communist Party has moved to “control its image around the world by jailing Chinese citizens, many of them ordinary people with little influence, who use foreign social media to criticize Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his government.”