Brady, a New Zealand expert on China, has had her Twitter account temporarily restricted for tweeting sarcastic comments about Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.
Anne-Marie Brady is a leading China expert at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Last week, she tweeted a criticism of the Communist Party’s centennial celebration of its founding. She said both of her tweets were temporarily marked “unreadable” by Twitter, and her Twitter account was temporarily restricted over the weekend. However, on Monday, the restrictions were lifted.
Twitter did not explain the reason for the restrictions placed on Brady’s account.
While Twitter is a U.S. social media outlet, it has had a controversial approach to censorship of speech. During the last US President Donald Trump’s term, Twitter blocked Trump’s tweets several times and finally blocked his account completely. On the other hand, Twitter has allowed the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s “Battle Wolf” diplomat Zhao Lijian and Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, to spread false information on Twitter.
One theory is that a large group of Twitter users paid by the Chinese Communist Party initiated a mass report online, triggering Twitter’s automatic response system. The Associated Press quoted British Times columnist Edward Lucas as saying, “I tweeted about it and it got a lot of attention and they sent a lot of complaints to Twitter and that’s what led to Twitter reinstating Brady’s account.”
Lucas added, “If it was a lesser-known victim of Chinese censorship, they would have had little chance of restoration.”
Brady tweeted to thank Lucas for her help. But she said she has not yet heard back from Twitter.
In a statement, Twitter said that if unusual activity is detected on an account, Twitter sometimes sends an ad hoc notification until it gets confirmation from the user of that account.
Twitter said, “Frankly, claims that Twitter is working with the government to suppress speech are unsubstantiated.” “We advocate for a free, global and open web and have been a strong defender of free speech.”
In a tweet, Brady poked fun at the lack of international recognition for the Communist Party’s party celebrations. Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of the very few foreign leaders to offer congratulations to the CCP.
In another tweet, she suggested changing a news headline to “Xi: It’s my celebration, I can do whatever I want!”
Brady’s tweet, sent Monday, said her account was back up. “I turned on my laptop this morning to see a “welcome back” message from Twitter on my screen, as if I had left it and come back.”
In 2017, Brady wrote a research paper titled “The Mysterious Weapon.” The report detailed various efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to expand its political influence in New Zealand. Brady then suffered a series of misfortunes when her home and office were surreptitiously entered and burglarized. But it was not items of value that were stolen, but computers, cell phones and other electronic items. Police are investigating Brady’s latest series of encounters.
In December 2018, scholars on China from around the world co-signed an open letter expressing support for Brady and asking Wellington authorities to protect her personal safety and academic freedom.
Following the publication of the letter, hundreds of China scholars from around the world joined the campaign, including prominent China scholars such as Jerome Cohen, a professor at New York University School of Law, June Teufel Dreyer, a professor of political science at the University of Miami, and Perry Link, a professor at Princeton University.