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Google's Removed Over 31,000 Chinese YouTube Channels for Coordinated Influence Operations in the Last 7 Months

Google has published its latest TAG Bulletin report, which provides an overview of all of the coordinated influence operations that its team detected and shut down across its apps in Q1 2022.

And for the most part, it looks pretty straightforward - 3 YouTube channels shut down in relation to efforts to criticize Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, an AdSense account linked to influence operations in Turkey, 42 YouTube channels and 2 Ads accounts terminated as part of an investigation into coordinated influence operations linked to Iraq.

Going back over its most recent TAG updates, Google removed 5,460 YouTube channels in December, also linked to coordinated influence operations linked to China ,15,368 Chinese YouTube channels in November, 3,311 YouTube channels in October, 1,217 in September,1,196 in August and 850 in July.

All of these are connected to the same investigation into coordinated influence operations linked to China, and all of them have the same description as the one above, relating to “spammy content” around entertainment. That’s over 31,000 YouTube channels removed over the last seven months.

It seems, based on Google’s description, that the main purpose of this effort is to first build an audience in the app with engaging, light content, before then using that reach to sprinkle in some pro-China sentiment, in order to seed it among broader audiences.

But it’s certainly a significant push, and it’s interesting to note just how much China is ramping up its activity over time. That likely suggests that it sees YouTube as a powerful vector for influence, which further underlines the importance of social platforms taking proactive, definitive steps to stop such programs before they can gain traction. 

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