Huntley described the channels as a “network” whose activities were found to be orchestrated.
“Channels in this network behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong,” he wrote. “We found use of VPNs and other methods to disguise the origin of these accounts and other activity commonly associated with coordinated influence operations.”
Videos claiming to be from news organizations or objective sources could be traced to the Chinese government. Protests have roiled Hong Kong since early June. While an extradition bill, since suspended, was the original motivation for the protests, the action has morphed into an anti-government movement.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, told CNN he was “not aware” of specifics when asked about the YouTube channels. “The biggest appeal of the 1.4 billion Chinese people, including the Hong Kong compatriots, is to stop violence, end chaos and restore order,” he said. “It’s impossible to organize or manipulate the will of 1.4 billion people, and it’s impossible to block it as well.”
Huntley said the disabling of the anti-protest channels was consistent with other recent efforts by Google. Earlier this week, the tech giant said it took action to protect its 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. The certificate enabled the government to decrypt and read anything a user types or posts, including intercepting their account information and passwords.
“Our teams will continue to identify bad actors, terminate their accounts, and share relevant information with law enforcement and others in the industry,” Huntley wrote.
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