Google shuts down 210 YouTube channels posting ‘coordinated’ disinformation about Hong Kong protests

Anthony Cuthbertson
Google disabled hundreds of YouTube channels used to undermine the protests in Hong Kong: Getty Images

Google has removed hundreds of YouTube channels for uploading videos in a “coordinated manner” about the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

The technology giant said 210 channels were disabled in order to protect the integrity of its platform, pointing to Chinese attempts to spread disinformation and manipulate the pro-democracy protests.

The move comes just days after Facebook and Twitter removed accounts linked to China that were being used to undermine the protests.

“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 relating to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong,” Google said in a statement.

“This discovery was consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter.”

On Monday, Twitter published details about a “significant state-backed information operation” on its platform, with nearly 1,000 accounts originating from China found to be deliberately attempting to sow political discord and undermine the protests.

One Twitter post by China Daily described protesters as “crazy”, while others likened them to Isis. As a result, Twitter announced it would ban advertisements from any state-run media organisation.

Facebook also removed several pages, groups and accounts involved in the disinformation campaign.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all banned in mainland China, due to tight internet controls that block most Western social media, however they are not blocked in Hong Kong.

Protesters occupy roads near government headquarters in Hong Kong this summer (AFP/Getty)

Protests in Hong Kong originally began in opposition to a controversial bill that would have allowed residents to be extradited to China.

Mass demonstrations in recent weeks have grown to include calls for an inquiry into alleged police brutality during previous protests and to push leader Carrie Lam to resign.

Police estimate that around 100,000 people have taken part in the protests, though organisers claim it is closer to half a million people.

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