Google thwarts 10,000 Chinese influence operations in just three months

Chinese influence operator, dubbed DragonBridge, persistently generates vast amounts of fake content on YouTube and other platforms to undermine the US government, society, and democracy. In a single quarter, Google blocked 10,000 of its attempts.

DragonBridge, also known as “Spamoflage Dragon,” is the most prolific influence operations actor tracked by Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG). It is a spam influence network linked to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Last year, Google disrupted over 65,000 instances of its activity across YouTube and Blogger. In the first quarter of 2024, another 10,000 attempts at spreading disinformation have been blocked.

That corresponds to tens of thousands of YouTube channels disabled and hundreds of thousands of videos suspended.

DragonBridge spreads narratives on a wide range of news topics, ranging from elections in Taiwan and the Israel-Hamas war to content critical of the US.

“The majority of DragonBridge activity remains low-quality content without a political message. A small fraction of DragonBridge accounts also post about current events with messaging that supports pro-PRC views,” Google’s report explains.

Despite high volumes, Google says that the threat actor failed to get high engagement from social media users.

In 2023, YouTube disabled over 57,000 of the threat actor’s channels, but only one in five channels had at least one subscriber.

YouTube suspended 900,000 videos, of which 65% had less than 100 views, and a third of videos had zero views. Around six percent of suspended videos were viewed more than 1000 times.

However, the threat actor persistently experiments with new content and techniques.

To portray the US leaders negatively, DragonBridge leveraged several AI-generated images.

In May 2023, DragonBridge used an AI-generated “news presenter” in a short news segment-style video.

Activity rises with political cycles

TAG warns that DragonBridge content has regularly included US political issues and political figures, particularly in the lead-up to elections.

The surge of its activity was detected around the general elections in Taiwan, held on January 13, 2024. It also actively started spreading narratives surrounding the Israel-Hamas war and the Russia-Ukraine war.

The threat actor produces short clips, comments, and other content that criticizes US support for Ukraine and involvement in the Israel-Hamas conflict. It blames President Joe Biden and the government for what happened. DragonBridge also focuses on other flaws and divisions in the US government and society.

“We have seen DragonBridge respond to significant events with pre-produced content and consider it highly likely that they will continue to do so, including with the 2024 US general election,” Google warns.

During the previous elections, DragonBridge was highly critical of both candidates and did not explicitly advocate for a specific candidate.

Google also warns that the threat actor has scaled its operation across multiple non-Google platforms and encourages the community to continue tracking and shedding light to counter this malicious activity.