YouTube shuts down 210 channels posting in coordinated HK disinformation campaign

Google has shut down 210 channels on YouTube which it claims organised the mass uploading of factually lacking video content to negatively influence opinions related to the Hong Kong extradition protests.

In a statement, Google’s Shane Huntley from the video platform’s security team said, “Earlier this week, as part of our ongoing efforts to combat coordinated influence operations, we disabled 210 channels on YouTube when we discovered channels in this network behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.”

Google has revealed that VPNs and other covert methods were used to disguise the origin of these posting accounts, along with other activity commonly associated with coordinated influence operations.

“The discovery was consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter,” Huntley said.

Google did not disclose the details of these YouTube channels such as how popular they were or how many videos had been posted to the channels.

A report from BBC News said Google did not comment on whether it agreed with Twitter’s assessment that it was a state-backed misinformation campaign, designed to undermine the protest movement in Hong Kong. Google also did not disclose whether it had plans to prohibit advertising sales to state-controlled media organisations, such as Xinhua.

On Monday, Twitter and Facebook rooted out a large number of accounts involved in what they determined to be state-backed operations focused on the situation in Hong Kong. 936 Twitter accounts originating from within mainland China were found to be “deliberately and specifically attempting” to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.

The accounts represented what was defined as the “most active portions” of the campaign, which involved a larger, spammy network of approximately 200,000 accounts. Many of them have been “proactively suspended” by Twitter before they were substantially active on the service.

Meanwhile, Facebook took out seven Pages, three Groups and five Facebook accounts in its own clearup.  The individuals behind the campaign, according to Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher, engaged in a number of “deceptive tactics”. Facebook’s investigation also found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government as part of its inquiries.