- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2019

YouTube announced Thursday it shut down 210 pro-China channels that appear to have been a coordinated social media attack against pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

YouTube’s parent company, Google, announced it would be taking actions similar to Facebook and Twitter, which shut down similar campaigns on their social media sites.

“This discovery was consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter. We found use of VPNs and other methods to disguise the origin of these accounts and other activity commonly associated with coordinated influence operations,” Google security leader Shane Huntley wrote, though he didn’t name the group that coordinated the channels.

Facebook and Twitter both said Monday they had removed Chinese government-backed accounts attempting to vilify protesters in Hong Kong, who weeks ago began protesting over a bill that would allow residents to be extradited out of Hong Kong to face trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.

While that bill has been effectively tabled — although not formally withdrawn —the protests have expanded into a broader pro-democracy movement.

Although Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are not available in mainland China, that’s not the case in Hong Kong. A spokeswoman for U.S. State Department told Reuters they’re “deeply concerned” the channels are attempts by the Chinese government to use social media and “manipulate public opinion by spreading disinformation about the situation in Hong Kong.”

Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang wouldn’t respond to questions about YouTube’s decision instead, calling for the Hong Kong protests to end.

“The will of 1.4 billion people cannot be blocked or controlled, and of course cannot be shut out,” he told reporters, according to the Daily Mail.

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have guidelines against using their services for deceptive means and opening faux accounts.

However, many have reported seeing pro-government ads on the social media sites and have accused the social media giants of profiting off the protests.

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