shutting it down
August 23, 2019

Twitter and Facebook weren't the only platforms hit with alleged disinformation campaigns targeting the protesters in Hong Kong.

Google has announced that it removed 210 YouTube channels that "behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong," with this crackdown being a part of the platform's effort to "combat coordinated influence operations."

The move comes after Twitter earlier this week announced it was suspending almost 1,000 accounts after discovering a "state-backed" campaign to "sow political discord" in Hong Kong and undermine the pro-Democracy protests there, with the platform saying the accounts originated in the People's Republic of China. Facebook that same day made a similar announcement, saying it was removing a smaller number of accounts engaging in "coordinated inauthentic behavior" that had links to the Chinese government. Some of the accounts suspended by both Twitter and Facebook were posing as news sources, CBS News reports.

Google says the findings that led to the removal of the more than 200 YouTube channels were "consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter." The users of these accounts, Google also said, were utilizing VPNs in an attempt to hide their location.

Lawmakers in recent days have raised serious concerns about these apparently China-backed disinformation campaigns on social media, with The Hill reporting that it's "the first time China has launched a significant social media-based disinformation campaign geared toward Western audiences." Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) of the House Intelligence Committee told The Hill that this could be "a trial run for our elections in 2020," warning, "if they succeed in doing it to the people of Hong Kong, what will stop them from trying to do it to us?” Brendan Morrow

February 28, 2019

YouTube is disabling the comments section on millions of videos featuring children following reports of pedophiles abusing the platform.

A recent report from YouTuber Matt Watson detailed a "soft-core pedophile ring" operating on the site, with pedophiles posting abusive comments on videos of kids and sharing links to child pornography, per NPR. This prompted numerous companies, including Disney, to pull advertising from YouTube.

Now, after previously deleting hundreds of accounts, YouTube said on Thursday it had disabled the comments on "tens of millions of videos that could be subject to predatory behavior." YouTube also said that "over the next few months, we will be broadening this action to suspend comments on videos featuring young minors and videos featuring older minors that could be at risk of attracting predatory behavior."

All videos with children 13 and younger will have their comments disabled, BuzzFeed News reports, while videos featuring minors older than 13 will have their comments turned off if they could attract predatory behavior.

Going forward, YouTube says a "small number" of channels that have children in their videos can keep the comments on, but they will be "required to actively moderate" the comments and "demonstrate a low risk of predatory behavior." YouTube says it is additionally launching a new comments classifier that will help better "identify and remove predatory comments." Brendan Morrow

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