YouTube shuts down accounts targeting Hong Kong protests

Hannah Boland
The Hong Kong protest movement is now in its eleventh week - REUTERS

More than 200 YouTube channels have been shut down amid claims they were behaving in a “coordinated manner” over the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

Google said it took the step to disable the 210 channels, which were using methods to disguise their origins, as part of its efforts to “combat coordinated influence operations”. 

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

Earlier this week, Twitter said it had suspended 936 accounts which it said were seeking to “sow political discord” in Hong Kong and “undermine the legitimacy and political positions” of the pro-democracy protesters. 

Facebook had also removed seven pages, three groups and five accounts which, together, had around 15,5000 followers and had been comparing protesters to Islamic State terrorists and calling them “cockroaches”.

The Hong Kong protest movement, which is now in its eleventh week, has brought the region to a standstill, causing flights to be grounded and business activity in the city to plunge.

The protests began over opposition to an extradition bill which would allow suspects to be sent to China, prompting fears political dissidents could be targeted, but they have since progressed into a wider pro-democracy revolt.

Estimates suggest up to 1.7 million people have been involved in the protests, and there have been more than 700 arrests.

As unrest intensifies in the region, China has been ramping up its rhetoric against the movement, launching a propaganda blitz across state TV, newspapers and news websites, in which it brands those involved as rioters, mobsters and thugs.

Earlier this month, the Chinese ambassador to the UK hit out against the international media for its coverage of the protests, saying violence by the pro-democracy campaigners was being ignored. However, he warned other states against “interfering” in Hong Kong.

Britain has a long history with Hong Kong, having only handed the colony back to China in 1997. Since that time, Hong Kong has existed under the “one country two systems principle” which has meant it has its own laws and constitutions, but is still part of the Chinese state. 

As well as demands over the extradition law, protesters have also been calling for broader political reforms in the region such as direct leadership elections.