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Google terminates coordinated influence operations linked to Russia, China, and Costa Rica

The technology giant terminated hundreds of Youtube and Ads accounts for their involvement in coordinated influence operations designed to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, criticize Costa Rican politicians, and upload spammy content.

Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) updated a bulletin for the second quarter of 2022 detailing all coordinated influence operation campaigns terminated on Google’s platforms over that period. This comes as a part of the platform's initiative to prevent the spread of misinformation and disinformation.

As such, TAG terminated 138 YouTube channels and two Ads accounts for a campaign linked to a Russian consulting firm. The campaign praised Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and expressed critical views of Ukraine and the NATO alliance, disseminating content in Russian.

Similarly, 44 YouTube channels and nine Ads accounts were removed for another campaign linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA.) The channels were supporting the occupation of Crimea and the Wagner Group’s activity in Ukraine and Africa. The campaign was spread in various languages, including Russian, French, Arabic, and Chinese.

Another batch of accounts was terminated for being linked to Russian state-sponsored organizations. Six Youtube channels were investigated and accused of supporting Russia’s actions in Ukraine and criticizing local oppositional figure Alexei Navalny.

Such activity, however, is not exclusively tied to Russia. Three YouTube channels, one domain, and one AdSense account were terminated for participating in a coordinated influence operation campaign linked to Slovakia and Germany. Content supporting Vladimir Putin and Russia’s aggression in Ukraine was spread in Slovak.

In turn, TAG terminated 37 YouTube accounts, one Ads account, and blocked two domains from appearing on Google News surfaces for a campaign linked to Costa Rica.

“The campaign was linked to Noelix Media and was sharing content in Spanish that was critical of Costa Rican and Salvadoran politicians and political parties. Our findings are similar to findings reported by Meta,” the bulletin explains.

The highest number of Youtube accounts – 1,546 – were terminated for a coordinated influence operation campaign linked to China. The majority of them spammed content about music and entertainment while a smaller percentage – about China and U.S. foreign affairs. The channels operated in Chinese and English.

Since late February, YouTube has removed 9,000 channels and 70,000 videos related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Much of the removed content echoed the Kremlin's narratives. Russian communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor has repeatedly called YouTube's content moderation policy unacceptable.

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