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Twitter blocked account of professor who mocked China’s leader

Wellington: An academic from New Zealand claims Twitter temporarily restricted her account after she mocked Chinese President Xi Jinping.

University of Canterbury Professor Anne-Marie Brady is a specialist on China’s efforts to exert political influence around the world and has been a candid critic of its ruling Communist Party. Last week, she sent tweets poking fun at the party’s 100th-anniversary celebrations. She said that two of those tweets were tentatively noted as ‘unavailable’ by Twitter and her account was temporarily restricted over the weekend before it was restored on Monday.

Twitter did not specify what prompted its actions.

Columnist Edward Lucas believes that Twitter responded automatically to an online complaint campaign originating from the Communist Party which would have triggered an investigation by Twitter. ‘After I had stoked a furor on Twitter and sent countless complaints, her account was restored,’ Lucas wrote. ‘Less noticeable victims of Chinese censorship would have fewer chances of redress.’

Brady tweeted her thanks to Lucas, saying that she hadn’t been able to get a response from Twitter. ‘It seems like @Twitter forgot they don’t work for Xi Jinping for a moment,’ Brady wrote.

Twitter stated that when it detects unusual activity from an account it may add temporary notices until it gets confirmation from the account owner.

According to Twitter, the assertion that Twitter collaborates with the government on speech suppression is not true at all. ‘We support a free, global, open internet, and remain fierce defenders of freedom of expression.’

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Brady made fun of the lack of international validation of the centennial in his tweets. President Vladimir Putin was among the very few world leaders to congratulate China.

In one tweet, Brady proposed an alternative headline for a news report about the celebrations: ‘Xi: it’s my Party and I’ll cry if I want to,’ she wrote.

Brady reported that her account had been restored. The first thing I saw when I opened my work laptop this morning was a ‘Welcome back’ message from @Twitter as if it were me who had left them.

As she wrote, Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Zoom, and other major players in social media are getting into the habit of silencing Communist Party critics.

Brady reported in her 2017 paper ‘Magic Weapons’ the Communist Party’s attempts to exert political influence in New Zealand. The subsequent burglaries and break-ins at her office and home remain unsolved.

The Chinese Embassy in Wellington did not instantly react to a request for comment.

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