This strikes me as alarming throughout, but also seems to be largely under the radar.
Today Google released his latest TAG Bulletin Reportproviding an overview of all ccoordinated interventions his team discovered and completed in his apps in Q3 2022.
And most of the data is broadly in line with our expectations:
- A total of 69 YouTube channels linked to Russia-backed influencer campaigns
- 15 YouTube Channels Traced to Sudanese affect the operation
- 5 YouTube channels from Myanmar
These types of reports and numbers are fairly standard, with the usual locations of such groups and programs.
But then there’s this:
- 10,221 YouTube channels were created in the period as part of a ongoing investigation into coordinated influence operations related to China
That’s quite a leap in cases from a single region — 10,000 YouTube channels were removed, building on the more than 30,000 YouTube channels YouTube removed last year as part of the same pushes against Chinese influence campaigns.
So what’s going on here?
As explained by Google:
“These channels mostly uploaded spam content in Chinese about music, entertainment and lifestyle. A very small subset uploaded content in Chinese and English about China and US foreign policy.”
TThe purpose of these channels is to first build an audience on YouTube by posting engaging, light content, before then using the audience reach they’ve gained to inject pro-Chinese sentiment to spread it to a wider audience.
This then allows the CCP and/or related groups to sway public opinion, possibly through subtle means, by gently nudging those viewers towards a more positive view of China’s activities.
The program has apparently grown over time, with YouTube discovering more and more channels linked to this group each month. And now, as part of this push, an average of over 10,000 YouTube channels per month are being shut down — and again, we’re talking about channels, not individual video clips.
It seems that YouTube is an important vector for pro-CCP campaigns, and that China is keen to push public opinion beyond its borders by any means necessary.
It may also indicate that similar operations are being performed in other apps that may not be detected. Then you also have Chinese-owned TikTok dominating the space, which has faced various questions about its ties to the CCP and perceived censorship of anti-Chinese content.
With Google deleting 10,000 YouTube accounts a month, it seems highly likely that TikTok is also being used as a vector to influence opinion, which is at least part of the reason why it continues to be investigated by the Foreign Investment Committee (CFIUS).
With this additional insight from Google’s TAG report, this appears to be a significant issue that could provide more context as to why TikTok remains under a cloud in the US.
Read Google’s full TAG report for Q3 here.