On Thursday, YouTube, a Google-owned video sharing platform, disabled 210 channels on the platform after discovering that the channels "behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong," according to a blog post by Shane Huntley, a member of Google's security team. There was no indication about the popularity of the channels or their activity. Huntley went on to write that Google "found use of VPNs and other methods to disguise the origin of these accounts and other activity commonly associated with coordinated influence operations." This comes just days after Facebook and Twitter shut down hundreds of accounts with ties to China. While Google did not state whether or not it suspected that the Chinese government was behind these channels, Twitter and Facebook were clearer about their suspicions."[Facebook and Twitter], as evidenced, talk about unblocked IP addresses coming from the mainland. So these were addresses that, you know, were given access through the Great Firewall, which censors information which suggests that there was some government support there," Adam Segal, a cyber security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations told NPR when asked about potential links to the Chinese Government.The US-based social media companies' actions could put further strain on US-China relations, as the two countries have been in a trade war for over a year. Most recently, the US sanctioned Huawei Technologies, a Chines telecommunications company.
China isn't the only country with web practices that forced Google to take action. "This week, Google announced that we have taken action to protect users in Kazakhstan after credible reports that its citizens were required to download and install a government-issued certificate on all devices and in every browser. This certificate enabled the government to decrypt and read anything a user types or posts, including intercepting their account information and passwords," Huntley wrote.Twitter and Facebook announced they found and removed a large network of Chinese government-backed accounts spreading disinformation about the protests in Hong Kong.This is just one example of how authoritarian regimes use social media to manipulate people, at home and abroad. https://t.co/PB2W4iehxr— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) August 20, 2019