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Twitter Apologizes for China Hacking Error

Screenshot of Twitter apology

Screenshot of Twitter apology

Twitter is apologizing for setting off alarms about the possible hacking of accounts belonging to China-based foreign journalists, saying an email that went out earlier in the day was a mistake.

Twitter posted the apology Thursday, hours after several journalists and analysts were notified of an attempted hacking. The emails came just as China's Communist Party begins a sensitive meeting that will set in motion a once-a-decade leadership transition.

Twitter said it automatically resets passwords in instances when it believes an account may have been compromised. But Twitter said this time it "unintentionally reset passwords of a larger number of accounts, beyond those that we believed to have been compromised. We apologize for any inconvenience or confusion this may have caused."

The initial emails, sent out early Thursday, did not specify who carried out the hacking attempt.

Chinese Internet users have been experiencing difficulties in accessing overseas websites and in using VPNs that allow users to circumvent Chinese censorship.

Many analysts have been expecting China's extensive network of Internet censors, known as the Great Firewall of China, to crack down harder on online content in the lead-up to the congress.

David Bandurski, who heads the China Media Project in Hong Kong, told VOA he was posting Twitter messages about Chinese President Hu Jintao's speech at the 18th Party Congress when he got the initial warning.

"I had someone else, a programmer, look at it and say that's a legit message from twitter," Bandurski said. "Beyond that I don't know what that means or who could be behind it. I have my guesses that I won't hazard, but I'm not sure what to say other than that it's an annoyance."

Patrick Chovanec, a business professor and analyst in Beijing, told VOA he also received the message.

"What I think is more remarkable about this is that I made one tweet saying it had happened and then a lot of other people replied saying the same thing had happened to them, people who are China watchers," he explained. "That's actually the significance of it -- it wasn't actually that disruptive, but it happened to a lot of people in a similar line of work at the same time."

Twitter warns users to use updated virus software, create a strong password, and be on alert for suspicious links.

* Jeff Seldin also contributed to this story

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