YouTube Disables Disinformation Campaign Targeting Hong Kong Protests

By (Blake Montgomery)
Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

YouTube announced Thursday that it had disabled more than 200 accounts on its platform running a propaganda campaign on behalf of the Chinese government. 

The 210 channels “behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong,” a security researcher for Google, which owns YouTube, wrote in a company blog post. YouTube is blocked in China, so the people who operated the accounts had used virtual private networks (VPNs) to mask the location of their origin, according to Google.

The Chinese government has waged a misinformation campaign against the pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong as protests over an extradition bill continue in the special administrative region. Chinese propaganda has painted the protesters as violent and under the thrall of foreign powers.

Earlier in the week, Facebook and Twitter announced that they had disabled accounts on their social networks behaving in a similar pattern as on YouTube. Though YouTube did not directly link the accounts it removed to Beijing, the company’s research found the accounts operated in a way that was “consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter.”

Twitter went a step further and declared it would no longer allow state-sponsored media outlets with no independent editorial oversight to purchase ads. YouTube declined to comment on whether the disabled Chinese accounts had bought ads.

Facebook said it would continue to allow the practice and had reportedly even allowed Chinese state media to buy ads attempting to sanitize the country’s extralegal detention of its Muslim minority.

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