Google Banned 2500+ Chinese YouTube Channels For Disinformation
Google says that it took down multiple coordinated influence operation campaigns linked to China, Russia, Iran, and Tunisia by terminating thousands of YouTube channels and several AdSense, Play Developer, and advertising accounts.
According to the Threat Analysis Group (TAG) Q2 2020 bulletin, a Google team of security experts that identify, report, and stop government-backed attacks, the disinformation campaigns were also identified using leads coming from researchers from other companies including Graphika and FireEye.
In all, Google says that it banned 2,596 YouTube channels used in coordinated influence operations coordinated by Chinese actors, 86 YouTube channels linked to Russian disinformation campaigns, and 19 channels involved in Iranian influence ops.
Ten disinformation campaigns terminated
Between April and June, Google was able to disrupt and take down ten coordinated influence operations, some of them also found and stopped by Facebook and Twitter on their own platforms.
As Google discovered during these campaigns’ analysis, the Chinese influence ops mostly focused on uploading spammy and non-political content, with a very small subset of the shared content being “political content primarily in Chinese,” “including content related to racial justice protests in the U.S.”
Social network mapping and analysis firm Graphika uncovered the same behavior in their April 2020 report covering Chinese disinformation operations on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
The political spam network tracked by Graphika as Spamouflage Dragon posted “about Hong Kong politics, Chinese regime critics and the Chinese response to COVID-19” using “video footage taken from pro-Chinese government channels, together with memes and lengthy texts in both Chinese and English.”
It also camouflaged the political content using “spam posts, typically of scenery, basketball, models, and TikTok videos.”
The Russian-linked coordinated influence operations, however, were focused on distributing content focused on domestic Russian and international politics and policy issues. Some of them were also involved in posting comments on Russian language videos.
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of State’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) published a special report on proxy sites and organizations used by Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem focused on “weakening the international credibility and international cohesion of the United States and its allies and partners.”
Previously tracked influence operations
Google’s Q1 2020 TAG bulletin published on May 27 also highlighted seven other disinformation operations linked to Iran, Egypt, India, Turkey, Serbia, and Indonesia, tracked between January and March 2020.
To take down these other influence operation campaigns, Google had to terminate hundreds of YouTube channels and to ban multiple Play developer, Adsense, and advertising accounts.
In March, Google also said that it delivered approximately 40,000 alerts of state-sponsored phishing or malware hacking attempts to its users during 2019, with a 25% drop when compared to 2018.
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