On August 22nd, Google announced that it had suspended 210 YouTube accounts allegedly coordinated by the Chinese government.
“When identifying and preventing threats, we exchange information with industry partners and law enforcement, and also apply our own internal investigative tools as well as intelligence from third parties.”
According to the statement, after an investigation it was concluded that these 210 accounts were publishing videos in a coordinated manner. And that it was “in line” with observations and actions undertaken by Facebook and Twitter in the previous days.
“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. This discovery was consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter.”
Google discovered use of VPNs and “other methods” to disguise the origin of the accounts, and behavior such as that was commonplace when it came to coordinated influence operations.
The interesting part is that Facebook, Twitter and Google are all banned in China, thus to even use the websites, a Chinese user is forced to use a VPN and “other methods,” which were used as evidence of malign activity.
Google said little more about the accounts, what they shared or whether it would disclose its findings to researchers.
TechCrunch attempted to get a comment from Google, but was only referred to the blog post and no other comment was provided.
The Twitter and Facebook actions that the Google blog post refers to were both posted on August 19th and were both aimed at alleged Chinese-state coordinated propaganda against the “pro-democratic” Hong Kong protesters.
Twitter said that it had suspended 936 accounts allegedly related to the Chinese government, in addition to suspending 200,000 accounts who were just sharing or posting the alleged propaganda.
“The accounts we are sharing today represent the most active portions of this campaign; a larger, spammy network of approximately 200,000 accounts — many created following our initial suspensions — were proactively suspended before they were substantially active on the service.”
On its part, Facebook said that it banned seven Pages, three Groups and five Facebook accounts involved in “coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a small network that originated in China and focused on Hong Kong.”
The action was undertaken after receiving a “tip” from Twitter.
“We are making progress rooting out this abuse, but as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge. We’re committed to continually improving to stay ahead. That means building better technology, hiring more people and working more closely with law enforcement, security experts and other companies.”
Following is some example content from the Facebook pages:
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