On Thursday, Google announced that it has disabled a series of YouTube channels that seemed to be a part of a coordinated influence campaign against pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
The move came after Twitter and Facebook accused the Chinese government of supporting a social media campaign to discredit Hong Kong pro-democracy protests, spreading political conflict in the city.
Shane Huntley of Google’s security threat analysis group said it has disabled 210 YouTube channels that it found behaved in a coordinated way while uploading videos related to the Hing Kong protests. “This discovery was consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter,” Huntley said in an online post.
This week, Twitter and Facebook declared that they have blocked almost 1,000 active accounts related to a coordinated influence campaign. Twitter said it had shut down about 200,000 more before they could inflict any damage.
“These accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground,” Twitter said.
A few posts from the accounts have been banned, said Facebook as it compared the protesters in Hong Kong with ISIS group militants and branded them “cockroaches” and accused them of killing people using slingshots.
The non-profit Soufan Center said on its website, “Beijing has deployed a relentless disinformation campaign on Twitter and Facebook powered by unknown numbers of bots, trolls, and so-called ‘sock puppets'”.
“China’s behavior will likely grow more aggressive in both the physical and virtual realms, using on-the-ground actions to complement an intensifying cyber campaign characterized by disinformation, deflection, and obfuscation,” it added.
The Soufan Center also said the social media platforms are the tools for people to advocate for rights, justice or freedom in their countries but the services are being turned on them by oppressive governments. “Autocratic governments are now using these same platforms to disparage demonstrators, divide protest movements, and confuse sympathetic onlookers,” the center said.