Facebook and Twitter have accused China of using social media to spread disinformation about Hong Kong’s protest movement.
This week, the U.S.-based social media services removed accounts they say were linked to a campaign targeting the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement.
The Chinese government blocks both Twitter and Facebook on the mainland. The sites are freely available in Hong Kong.
Twitter said in a statement it had taken down more than 900 accounts for purposefully attempting to create “political discord” in Hong Kong. The company said it had uncovered evidence the accounts were part of "a coordinated state-backed operation."
The accounts appeared aimed at “undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground,” Twitter added. All the accounts had been “suspended for a range of violations” of Twitter policies, the company said.
In a statement, Facebook said it began investigating similar activity on its service after Twitter informed the company about the issue. It said it had removed at least seven pages, three groups and five accounts linked to “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on the service.
Facebook said the individuals behind the campaign used a number of methods to spread their message, including using false accounts. Facebook’s system is designed to look for false accounts. The company said its system found and blocked some of the accounts linked to the campaign.
Facebook said that although people behind the activity attempted to hide their identities, “our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government.”
Some of the accounts were pages designed to look like real news organizations. But they were instead used to spread disinformation, Facebook said. It also said the decision to take down the pages, groups and accounts was based on the behavior of the people behind the activity, and not the information that was published.
Both Twitter and Facebook showed examples of some material posted to the accounts. Several pages described Hong Kong protesters as violent aggressors. One Facebook page compared the demonstrators to Islamic State terrorists. Several other posts described Hong Kong protesters as “cockroaches.”
Twitter also announced a new policy of banning advertisements from “state-controlled media” companies. That decision came after Twitter was criticized for accepting ads from major Chinese state-run news agencies. Some ads described Hong Kong protesters as being anti-China and trying to fuel violence.
Twitter said state-controlled media would still be permitted to use Twitter accounts to publish non-ad information as long as the companies do not violate any Twitter rules.
A spokesperson for Facebook told The Associated Press the company is currently considering its policies related to state-owned media before deciding whether changes are necessary.
When asked about the actions of Twitter and Facebook, a Chinese official defended the right of Chinese people and media to make their voices heard about the Hong Kong protests.
“What is happening in Hong Kong, and what the truth is, people will naturally have their own judgment,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters. But he added, “Why is it that China’s official media’s presentation is surely negative or wrong?”
Geng said it is important for Chinese media to use foreign social media services to communicate to the world. This can help the media introduce Chinese policies and “tell China’s story,” he added.
Leaders of the Hong Kong protest movement have widely used social media to get their message out to the world. They have also used such services to coordinate activities in Hong Kong.
The actions of both Facebook and Twitter are seen as an effort to answer past criticism. In recent years, critics have said the social media companies do not do enough to prevent state-run interference in elections around the world.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, VOA News, Facebook and Twitter. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.
Quiz - Facebook, Twitter Accuse China of Fueling Hong Kong Disinformation
Start the Quiz to find out
Words in This Story
account – n. an arrangement in which a person uses internet or service of a particular company
discord – n. lack of agreement or feeling of trust between people
coordinate – v. make different people or things work together effectively
undermine – v. make something weak or ineffective
legitimacy – n. the quality of being legal
range – n. a group of different things of the same general type
inauthentic – adj. not real
associate – v. to relate two things to each other
cockroach – n. a large, brown or black insect that can live in houses and places where food is prepared
August 21, 2019
6 Minute English
Improving your memory
EPISODE 190131 / 31 JAN 2019
Storing information is an important function of our brains and scientists are always looking at ways to improve it but also to stop it deteriorating. Neil and Rob discuss ways of improving your memory and teach you new vocabulary - that they hope you'll remember later!
This week's question
There are many ways we can improve our memory but one way is through the type of food we eat. According to the BBC Food website, which type of food support good memory function? Is it…
Listen to the programme to find out the answer.
things we remember from the past
learning by 'doing' and practicing something over and over again
seeing something in the situation where it usually exists
changing information into a form that can be stored and later recalled
doing something based on feelings rather than facts or proof
a disease affecting your brain that makes it difficult to remember things and gets worse as you get older
Note: This is not a word for word transcript
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English, I'm Neil. This is the programme where in just six minutes we discuss an interesting topic and teach some related English vocabulary. And joining me to do this is Rob.
Hello… err sorry Neil, how long did you say this programme is?
Six minutes – it's 6 Minute English, Rob.
Right. OK. Sorry, what's your name again?
Neil! My name is Neil. Rob, what has happened to your memory?!
Sorry, Neil – too many things on my mind, it's affecting my short-term memory, but what I can remember is that in this programme we're talking about improving our memory.
We are and I think you might find it quite useful! Storing information is an important function of our brains and scientists are always looking at ways to improve it but also to stop it deteriorating – or becoming worse.
Yes, and we all know that memories – that's the noun word for things we remember from the past – are nice to have but also important for remembering who people are, where things are kept and how things look.
Soon we'll be discussing a new idea for improving your memory but not before I've set today's quiz question. There are many ways we can improve our memory but one way is through the type of food we eat. According to the BBC Food website, which type of food supports good memory function? Is it…
b) spinach, or
Well, as a kid I was always told that spinach was good for me – Popeye ate it to make him strong – so I'll say b) spinach.
Well, I'll have the answer later on. Now, let's talk more about improving our memory. Memory is the ability to encode, store and recall information but a number of factors can affect people’s memory processes including health, anxiety, mood, stress and tiredness.
That's why, for example, if you're taking an exam it's important to get a good night's sleep and to keep healthy. But Neil, when you're revising for an exam, what helps you to remember facts?
I tend to write things down again and again and again and again.
Well, that's one way. But people have different styles to help them remember. According to the BBC's iWonder guide, there are three different styles - visual, auditory and kinaesthetic, that's learning by ‘doing’ and practicing something over and over again. That sounds like me.
But recently, a new study has come up with a method that could possibly be the best way to improve your memory and that's by drawing. Daryl O'Connor, who's Professor of Psychology at the University of Leeds, has been speaking about it on the BBC Radio 4 programme, All In The Mind. See if you can work out why…
Daryl O'Connor, Professor of Psychology at the University of Leeds
The authors certainly argue that one of the things that happens by drawing these particular objects, that it leads to this increased contextual representation of the object in one's mind… It makes a lot of intuitive sense – the idea that if you have encoded something in a greater level of detail, you're more likely to remember it… It's much stronger than just remembering writing down the words.
OK, so let's try to explain that. Drawing something leads to increased contextual representation of the object. When something is contextual, it is in the situation where it usually exists.
So as you draw something you are creating a picture in your mind about what it is, how you use it and where it is used. I wonder if this means artists have good memories…
Maybe. Daryl O'Connor says that when you draw you are encoding something in a greater level of detail, more than you would by just writing things down. Encoding is changing information into a form that can be stored and later recalled.
That's because as you draw, you're thinking about different aspects of the object. He says it makes intuitive sense – intuitive means it is 'based on feelings rather than facts or proof' - so, you just feel it is the best thing to do.
Of course this is just one more way to improve your memory. I have also heard that doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku can help, especially when you're older.
Yes, as we get older we can often have more difficulty retrieving information from our memory - and people with Alzheimer’s find it very difficult to encode information – so any way to keep our memory working is a good thing. Basically we need brain training!
Brain training and eating the right food Rob! You might remember that earlier I asked you, according to the BBC Food website, which type of food supports good memory function? Is it…
b) spinach, or
And Rob, you said…
I do remember and I said b) spinach.
And that is sort of the wrong answer. In fact they were all correct – they are all examples of food that can help support good memory. Apparently, foods rich in B vitamins are important as they provide protection for the brain as we age and support good memory function. I think it's time to change my diet! Now on to the vocabulary we looked at in this programme.
So today we've been talking about our memory – we use our memory to remember things and memories is the noun for things we remember from the past.
Then we discussed a learning style known as kinaesthetic, that is learning by 'doing' and practising something over and over again.
We heard from Professor Daryl O'Connor, who talked about contextual representation - when something is contextual, you see it in the situation where it usually exists.
Next we talked about encoding. Thatis changing information into a form that can be stored and later recalled.
And we mentioned intuitive sense – having an intuitive sense means doing something 'based on feelings rather than facts or proof' - so, you just feel it is the best thing to do.
And finally we mentioned Alzheimer’s – a disease affecting the brain that makes it difficult to remember things and it gets worse as you get older.
Well there are lots of new words to remember there – but that's all for this programme.
Don't forget to visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and our website bbclearningenglish.com. Bye for now.
Experts warn coalition will be short-lived due to economic woes, questions of legitimacy
By The Nation
Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan was recently made chief strategist of the coalition leader Phalang Pracharat Party, and Ubon Ratchathani University’s Faculty of Political Science dean Titipol Phakdeewanich said that this move only reinforced people’s perception that the coalition is supported and controlled by the military, which staged a coup in 2014.
“Military intervention in politics is never good for democracy,” Titipol said, adding that the public realised that the junta intended to stay in power after the March election when the Phalang Pracharat Party endorsed General Prayut Chan-o-cha as prime minister. Prayut was the leader of the coup and head of the junta-backed government.
He also said that Prawit and Phalang Pracharat will continue trying to lure opposition MPs to join their camp because the coalition has a slim majority in the House of Representatives.
Titipol added that it was also time for Prayut to fix his mistake after he was accused of not reading the entire oath in the oath-taking ceremony before taking office.
“Prayut doesn’t need to resign, and nor will the government collapse. Former US president Barack Obama had to be sworn in again after he made a similar mistake in 2009, when he took office for the first term,” Titipol said.
Somjai Phagaphasvivat, another political scientist, said Prawit’s power and Prayut’s charisma will help them manage fighting political factions in the Phalang Pracharat Party. These two men also have the capacity to steer the entire coalition government.
“They will, however, face two challenges – the economy and their legitimacy to rule,” Somjai said.
Thai and global economies are slowing down very fast, so Prayut will face the huge task of managing the economy and ensuring the people are satisfied, he said, adding that failure to deliver will land the PM and his Cabinet in unstable waters.
On the political side, Prayut’s government also has to address the question of validity, he said, as the coalition has been accused of representing military rule, much like the junta-led government from 2014 to 2019.
The government also has to prove that it abides by freedom of expression, which is at the heart of democracy, he said.
“So far, the coalition has done nothing to show it is upholding the principles of freedom of expression, nor has it managed the economy well,” Somjai said.
As for the controversy over the oath, Somjai said the Constitutional Court will have a final say.
Meanwhile, Gothom Arya, adviser to Mahidol University’s Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, said he reckons the government will stay in office for two years because the politicians are not ready for another election.
“Some may believe this government will stay for the entire four-year term because it has the military’s support, but I believe the political situation will remain unstable because of frequent military intervention,” he said, adding that after two years the political landscape is bound to become turbulent, especially since the coalition is comprised of many tiny parties.
He also called for freedom of expression to be restored, especially since Thailand has a civilian government. Gothom also agreed that the premier should take his oath again, “otherwise Prayut’s reputation will be tarnished forever”.
Rice-price guarantees ready for Cabinet
By The Nation
Cabinet approval will soon be sought for the rice guarantees in five types, Jurin said:
• Rice grown at 15 per cent humidity will be priced at Bt10,000 per tonne with an income guarantee of not more than 30 tonnes per household or not more than 40 rai.
• Glutinous rice is guaranteed a price of Bt12,000 per tonne, for not more than 16 tonnes per household or not over 40 rai.
• Jasmine rice has been guaranteed a price of Bt15,000, not exceeding 40 rai or 14 tonnes per household.
• Fragrant rice will be assured Bt14,000 per tonne, not more than 40 rai or not over 16 tonnes.
• Pathumthani fragrant rice has been guaranteed a price not exceeding Bt11,000, not more than 40 rai or not more than 25 tonnes.
The committee assigned the Bank of Agriculture and the Agricultural Cooperatives and Commerce Ministry to prepare the details and a formal budget in accordance with the Financial Discipline Act.
Growers must register with the ministry’s Agricultural Extension Department before October 31, except those in the South, who have until February 28.
The Finance Ministry has proposed measures to improve production, harvesting and quality that would see farmers receive Bt500 per tonne, limited to 20 rai each. The committee assigned Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana to discuss the programme with the Budget Bureau, Jurin said.
Thai Rice Exporters Association president Charoen Laothammatas called the price guarantee a short-term measure to ensure farmers have a stable income, but in the longer term, the association expects the government to improve the quality of seeds and support farmers in producing higher-quality crops, and to expand their overseas markets.
Thailand exports 300,000 tonnes of rice annually to Japan and on average 800,000 tonnes to Iraq and Iran. It also has a government-to-government contract with China to ship up to two million tonnes there. Already 1.7 million tonnes have been sent and the remainder will be delivered later this year.
Charoen said global rice production for 2018-2019 dropped by 760,000 tonnes – about 0.15 per cent – from 2017-2018.
The global export market declined 4.9 per cent between January and August, when Thailand shipped 5.27 million tonnes, down from 6.15 million tonnes or 22.4 per cent compared to the same period last year.
The value of exports in that same period this year was Bt88 billion, down nearly 17.1 per cent, he said.
Thailand ranked second in the world for rice exports in those eight months, behind India.