Google has removed more than 50,000 YouTube channels linked to influence operations from China

Seems to be an important item, but largely buried in google TAG BULLETIN Reportswhich give an overview of allcoordinated influence operations that his team detected and stopped over time.

As we reported back in May, at the time of Google’s TAG Q1 bulletin, Google removed more than 31,000 YouTube channels linked to China-based influence operations between July last year and March 2022, a enormous quantity, which far outweighed any other element.

And today Google shared its q2 beacon bulletin, which along with its various efforts to combat Russian-backed disinformation efforts about the invasion of Ukraine, also details that it has shut down 7,169 other China-related YouTube channels over the past three months.

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By comparison, Google removed 231 YouTube channels, in total, in connection with the Ukrainian conflict.

As explained by Google (in English only:

“TThe hese channels mostly uploaded spammy content in Chinese about music, entertainment and lifestyle. A very small subset uploaded Chinese and English content about China and US foreign affairs.

This is the explanation Google has provided for all these removals, a modeled and somewhat vague summary of what is happening with these channels.

So what exactly is going on?

There aren’t many details provided, but it seems that the main purpose of these channels is to first create an audience in the app by posting engaging and light content, which grabs the attention of the viewer. Channels end up using this reach to sprinkle in some pro-China sentiment, in order to drive it to a wider audience.

This then allows the CCP, and/or related groups, to potentially influence public opinion through subtle means, gently nudging those viewers toward a more positive view of China’s activities.

And the scale of the operation is significant – in total, over the past year, Google has now detected and removed over 50,000 YouTube channels (not individual videos, mind you, channels) connected to this effort.

That’s a lot, and if you look at the data, the program seems to have grown significantly this year, which likely suggests that whoever behind it sees YouTube as a powerful influencer.

The data further underscores the importance for social platforms to take proactive and definitive action to stop such schemes before they can gain traction, while highlighting how state actors seek to use the scale of social media. to influence world opinion.

Which is also a concern linked to the rise of TikTok, with many security experts warning of the potential dangers of the Chinese-owned app gathering information and/or allowing pro-China narratives to proliferate. .

Indeed, TikTok has come under scrutiny on several occasions due to its perceived efforts to remove anti-China content, and with recent analysis also showing that the app is becoming one of the news and key information for younger users, this may well become a bigger issue over time.

Add to that the fact that the Chinese government continues to clash with other world leaders, on various fronts, and there is clearly cause for concern there.

And with pro-China groups also looking to infiltrate YouTube on this scale, there seem to be some important trends emerging in the broader stream of online news and information.

We’ve asked Google for more information on what exactly is going on with these YouTube removals, and we’ll add to this story if/when we hear back.

UPDATE: Google referred us this twitter threadon a China-related group named DragonBridge, for more context on the removals.

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