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YouTube takes action on campaigns targeting Hong Kong

August 23, 2019

The move follows similar action by Twitter and Facebook, which said China was behind the campaigns. Google, YouTube's parent company, said VPNs and other methods were used to disguise the origin of the accounts.

YouTube viewed from a Smartphone
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Skolimowska

YouTube, Google's video streaming service, said on Thursday that it has disabled hundreds of channels on the platform, which were tied to a coordinated campaign against Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests.

Hong Kong, which became part of China in 1997 under the "one country, two systems" concept, is in the midst of an unprecedented political crisis that has seen millions of people take to the streets.

Peaceful protest in Hong Kong

'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," Shane Huntley of Google's security threat analysis group said in an online post.

Google said it found the "use of VPNs and other methods to disguise the origin of these accounts and other activity commonly associated with coordinated influence operations." VPNs — virtual private networks — are often used to circumvent geo-restrictions and censorship.

Read more: How mainland Chinese see the 'Hong Kong mob'

The move came just days after social media giants Twitter and Facebook accused the Chinese government of being behind social media campaigns on their sites, seeking to sow discord and damage the protest movement.

Google did not explicitly accuse the Chinese government of being behind the campaigns, but said the videos were related to Facebook and Twitter's disclosure.

"This discovery was consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter," Huntley confirmed.

Social media companies have been under pressure in the past years, following criticisms over the spread of misinformation on their sites. This week's actions are the latest in a series of attempts by Twitter, Facebook and Google to crack down on harmful content on their sites.

jcg/kl (AP, dpa, AFP)

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