YouTube detected an uptick in China-linked “coordinated influence operations” and tore down more than 2,500 video channels in 2020’s second quarter.
The manipulative accounts posted content featuring a combination of spam and videos about America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and racial justice protests in the U.S., according to the second quarter bulletin published this week by Google’s Threat Analysis Group.
“These channels mostly uploaded spammy, non-political content, but a small subset posted political content primarily in Chinese similar to the findings in a recent Graphika report, including content related to the U.S. response to COVID-19,” said Google’s Threat Analysis Group. “We received leads from Graphika that supported us in this investigation.”
Graphika is a software and managed services company that describes itself as “cartographers of the internet age.” Earlier this year, Graphika published a report identifying a “Spamouflage Dragon” network of new and dormant accounts on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to praise the Chinese government and its agenda.
“The network made heavy use of video footage taken from pro-Chinese government channels, together with memes and lengthy texts in both Chinese and English,” read the Graphika report. “It interspersed its political content with spam posts, typically of scenery, basketball, models, and TikTok videos. These appeared designed to camouflage the operation’s political content, hence the name.”
Google’s bulletin detailing the Chinese influence operations on YouTube, comes on the heels of researchers and government officials issuing warnings about the threat of Chinese influence in U.S. domestic politics.
The Stanford Internet Observatory researchers published a new report last month spotlighting China’s “extensive influence apparatus” that uses broadcast, print and social media to change public opinion on the coronavirus crisis in the U.S.
With 100 days to go until the November election, William R. Evanina, director of U.S. counterintelligence, delivered a warning last month pointing to China, Iran and Russia as attempting to influence political opinion. Mr. Evanina said China’s influence efforts included “pressur[ing] political figures.”
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