Google deactivates hundreds of YouTube channels linked to Hong Kong protests
Secondary school students wave their phones and cover one eye in solidarity with a woman who was injured during an anti-government rally at Central, in Hong Kong, China, Aug. 22, 2019. EPA-EFE/ROMAN PILIPEY
A Google logo is displayed at the Google offices in Berlin, Germany, Jun. 24, 2019. EPA-EFE FILE/HAYOUNG JEON
Students using the light on their mobile react during an anti-government rally at Central, in Hong Kong, China, Aug. 22, 2019. EPA-EFE/ROMAN PILIPEY
San Francisco, USA, Aug 22 (efe-epa).- Google reported Thursday that it had disabled 210 YouTube channels that were part of a coordinated attempt to post information related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
Google, owner of the video platform banned in China, said it had found that the channels “behaved in a coordinated manner” and were consistent with the "recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter.”
“We found use of VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) and other methods to disguise the origin of these accounts and other activity commonly associated with coordinated influence operations,” said Shane Huntley, director of Google’s Threat Analysis Group.
Google did not identify those behind the accounts, but the move comes after Twitter and Facebook shut down accounts coming from inside mainland China which were also "coordinated" and focusing on Hong Kong protests.
On Monday, Twitter announced that it had found a coordinated effort of 936 accounts from inside China, which it suspended after they were found “attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong” and delegitimize protests.
"Based on our intensive investigations, we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation," said the company.
Twitter is blocked in China by the government, so many accounts were connected to the social network via VPNs, although some used unblocked IP addresses originating from the mainland.
Jack Dorsey's company shared some of the messages posted by these accounts, which showed images of violence and damage to property allegedly caused by protesters and which accused them of being “crazy” or “taking benefits from the bad guys.”
Twitter also suspended 200,000 additional accounts that were detected as having been created to amplify messages before they were substantially active on the service.
Facebook, the most widely-used social network in the world and also blocked in China, said the same day that it had removed seven pages, three groups and five user accounts “involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a small network that originated in China and focused on Hong Kong.”
“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, head of the platform's Cybersecurity Policy.
The former British colony has seen 11 weeks of mass demonstrations, initially convened against a contentious extradition bill, which then morphed into a broader movement seeking democratic reforms and ultimately opposing Beijing's authoritarian rule. EFE-EPA