Oct 17, 2019

Massive pro-China troll response met Rockets GM's Hong Kong tweet

Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

After Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters, he received just under 170,000 angry tweets in response. But an analysis by experts at the Wall Street Journal suggests a massive chunk of the outrage came from a coordinated effort by sham accounts.

Why it matters: It's not immediately clear that the response effort was run by the Chinese government — though, at the numbers involved, that seems likely. But if it was a government-led effort, it marks a substantial change in China's modus operandi in dealing with global news events.

China typically focuses its disinformation efforts inward, toward the citizens of mainland China and its disputed territories.

  • While the Houston Rockets and NBA have a large Chinese following, Texas remains independent from China.

By the numbers:

  • 22% of tweets came from accounts with zero followers at some point in the last week.
  • 4,855 accounts involved in the campaign had never been used until replying to Morey.
  • 3,677 accounts didn't exist until Morey's tweet.
  • Less than half the accounts used in the campaign had more than 13 followers.

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Mike Pence blasts the NBA in speech on China

Vice President Pence. Photo: Stringer/Getty Images

Vice President Pence denounced the NBA in a speech on Thursday, saying the league is "siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech ... acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime."

The big picture: Pence's accusations come after the general manager of the Houston Rockets incensed Chinese leaders with his support of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. NBA commissioner Adam Silver then backed GM Daryl Morey up, saying the league is "not willing to compromise" with China on freedom of expression for league employees.

Go deeperArrowOct 24, 2019

The power of authoritarian hush money

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The same American CEOs and celebrities who publish bold op-eds and stand up for social issues in the U.S. are playing censor for Beijing and cozying up to the Saudi royals.

Why it matters: Never before has authoritarian governments' ability to silence America's rich and powerful been so starkly on display.

Go deeperArrowOct 19, 2019

Hong Kong frees murder suspect who triggered massive protests

Chan Tong-kai walks out of the Pik Uk Prison in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Photo: Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Images

Murder suspect Chan Tong-kai, whose case prompted Hong Kong's government to introduce a bill that would've exposed Hong Kongers to extradition to mainland China, was released from prison Wednesday, the BBC reports. He was released as officials were preparing to formally withdraw the controversial bill, per AP.

Why it matters: The bill triggered months of massive demonstrations in the Chinese territory that morphed into a wider pro-democracy protest movement that's become embroiled in U.S. politics. Congress has raised China's ire by pressing ahead with a bill supporting the Hong Kong protesters, and the NBA has become involved in a standoff with Chinese officials over the movement.

Go deeperArrowOct 23, 2019