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Over 900 Chinese Twitter, Facebook accounts disabled over ‘deceptive tactics’

Facebook and Twitter announced Monday that they had disabled hundreds of accounts of related to a state-backed social media campaign that originated in mainland China, all of which looked to undermine protests in Hong Kong.

Twitter said in a blog post that it had suspended 936 accounts that originated within China.

In a similar blog post, Facebook said that it, too, had closed five accounts, seven pages and three groups that were part of a small network associated with individuals connected to the Chinese government.

READ MORE: IN PHOTOS: Hong Kong protests around the world

“The individuals behind this campaign engaged in a number of deceptive tactics, including the use of fake accounts — some of which had been already disabled by our automated systems — to manage pages posing as news organizations, post in Groups, disseminate their content, and also drive people to off-platform news sites,” wrote Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy.

Currently, both of the social media platforms are blocked in China, but many of the accounts were able to receive access due to the use of VPNs, according to Twitter’s statement.

The 936 suspended Twitter accounts were the most active of a “larger, spammy network” that totalled 200,000 accounts.

WATCH: Hong Kong’s road to political turmoil

It was only shortly after Twitter’s announcement that Facebook would move to detect and take down its pages, citing a tip received from Twitter about activity monitored on the site.

“We will continue monitoring and will take action if we find additional violations. We’ve shared our analysis with law enforcement and industry partners,” said Gleicher.

The alerts about the suspended accounts came shortly after Buzzfeed News first reported on Monday that state-controlled media in China bought advertisements on Twitter and Facebook, which were aimed at framing Hong Kong’s protesters as violent and disingenuous.

READ MORE: Hong Kong protesters are using Pepe the Frog as part of pro-democracy movement

The Hong Kong protests began in June in response to a highly controversial bill that allowed suspects to be extradited to Communist Party-dominated courts in mainland China.

Following the suspension of the bill, the protests would evolve into a call for greater democratic freedoms, an investigation into police violence as well as for Hong Kong’s Leader Carrie Lam to step down.

The suspensions also come during a time when social media companies face heavy pressure to monitor their political influence online.

Foreign interference played a significant role in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

Experts have raised concern about foreign meddling in this year’s upcoming Canadian federal election.

— With files from Reuters

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