Google shuts down 210 YouTube channels linked to Chinese disinformation campaign

Some 210 YouTube accounts were just disabled by Google LLC for involvement in a coordinated effort to spread disinformation relating to the Hong Kong protests.

Google said Thursday it has identified threats after sharing information with industry partners and law enforcement, following an internal investigation found a propaganda campaign on YouTube similar to the campaigns recently shut down by Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc.

“We found use of VPNs and other methods to disguise the origin of these accounts and other activity commonly associated with coordinated influence operations,” Shane Huntley, working as part of Google’s threat analysis group, wrote in the post. “These actions are part of our continuing efforts to protect the integrity of our platforms.”

Earlier this week Twitter purged 936 accounts that it said originated in the People’s Republic of China. The government-backed accounts Twitter said were all involved in trying to undermine the current Hong Kong protests. Facebook removed fewer accounts also said to be involved in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” and also linked to the Chinese government.

Google, however, did not explicitly say that the purged channels were government-backed and so far has refused to provide any more information regarding who was behind the content.

Unlike Twitter and Facebook, Google didn’t provide examples of what content it removed, only saying that the accounts breached its rules. Graham Brookie, the director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, told the New York Times that YouTube doesn’t often share with researchers what content it removes to prevent it from being distributed further.

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“This aspect of the information operation is much like the Twitter or Facebook content, part of a larger whole that goes across platforms,” Brookie said. “Each one of those parts is extremely important in terms of understanding the larger network.”

It was also said that many of the Twitter accounts that were removed this week regularly posted YouTube video clips, and though some of those videos were innocuous and remain on the platform, others have now been removed.

Photo: Etan Liam/Flickr

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