Google has suspended 210 YouTube channels it says were being used as part of a synchronized campaign to influence public opinion about the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
The move follows Twitter’s suspension earlier this week of nearly 1,000 accounts for violating the company’s “platform manipulation policies” it said were tied to Chinese state actors trying to sabotage the Hong Kong protests. Facebook said it was also taking down several pages and accounts for “coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a small network that originated in China and focused on Hong Kong.”
In a statement, Google, which owns YouTube and whose parent company is Alphabet Inc., said its decision to suspend the channels was “to act against coordinated influence operations,” but it did not directly blame the Chinese government.
It said the channels “behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong,” adding that their finding “was regular with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter.”
“We found use of VPNs and other methods to conceal the origin of these accounts and other activity commonly associated with coordinated influence operations,” the statement said.
Google is a financial supporter of NPR. The student-led protests in Hong Kong have been going on for nearly 11 weeks. They started out with calls for the government to kill a controversial bill that would have allowed some accused of crimes in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial. Since then, the protesters have added old and new grievances, including calls for the direct election of Hong Kong’s chief executive and an independent investigation of alleged police savagery in dealing with the demonstrators.