YouTube cuts off 210 channels for spreading Hong Kong protest disinformation

23 Aug 2019

Image: AP

YouTube has shut down 210 channels it believes are working together to spread disinformation about the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

YouTube said it disabled more than 200 videos this week that appeared to be part of a coordinated effort to spread misinformation about the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. The video removals come just days after Twitter said it had suspended more than 200,000 accounts it linked to a Chinese government influence campaign against the protests.

Facebook also said it had suspended accounts and removed pages after being notified by Twitter. Google, which owns YouTube, did not explicitly implicate the Chinese government but said the videos were related to the similar disclosures from Facebook and Twitter.

Social media companies have faced criticism about the spread of misinformation on their sites and have taken actions to combat the issue in recent months.

In a blog post, Shane Huntley, director of software engineering for Google Security’s Threat Analysis Group, 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.

“We found use of VPNs and other methods to disguise the origin of these accounts and other activity commonly associated with coordinated influence operations.”

The decision comes just a few days after Google and other major web browser providers challenged plans by the Kazakhstan government to track its citizens’ activity online by asking them to install a state-backed security certificate.

If installed, privacy advocates warned that the government would be able to intercept, decrypt, analyse and reanalyse all encrypted HTTPS traffic.

Parisa Tabriz, senior engineering director for Google Chrome, said: “We will never tolerate any attempt, by any organisation – government or otherwise – to compromise Chrome users’ data. We have implemented protections from this specific issue and will always take action to secure our users around the world.”

– PA Media, with additional reporting by Colm Gorey