If you’re wondering why all the fuss about TikTok and its potential connection to the CCP, and why are governments around the world increasingly looking to ban the app?
This is one part of it – every quarter, Google publishes its Threat Analysis Group (TAG) bulletin, which provides an overview of all the malicious activity that it’s detected and blocked across its platforms.
And it’s mostly pretty straightforward – for example, in the latest TAG bulletin for Q1 2023, there’s:
- The termination of 87 YouTube channels as part of an investigation into coordinated influence operations linked to Russia
- The removal of 40 YouTube channels as part of an investigation into coordinated influence operations linked to Iran
- The canceling of 1,088 YouTube channels as part of an investigation into coordinated influence operations linked to Azerbaijan
All pretty much as you would expect.
But then, in the last note of the report, there’s this:
“We terminated 6,285 YouTube channels and 52 Blogger blogs as part of our ongoing investigation into coordinated influence operations linked to China. These channels and blogs mostly uploaded spammy content in Chinese about music, entertainment and lifestyle. A very small subset uploaded content in Chinese and English about China and U.S. foreign affairs.”
Every time, there are thousands of YouTube channels removed that are linked to influence operations coming out of China, which are part of a broader investigation into a group called ‘Dragonbridge’ which looks to spread pro-China propaganda through western social media channels.
In fact, in 2022 alone, Google disrupted over 50,000 instances of Dragonbridge activity, across YouTube, Blogger, and AdSense, while Google also claims to have terminated over 100,000 Dragonbridge accounts in total.
And note, this is accounts and channels, not individual videos or posts. The actual scale of the operation is massive, and it’s a huge, ongoing effort for Google to detect and remove these operations, which looks to seed pro-CCP content across various channels.
It stands to reason, then, that if Chinese influence operations are targeting western social networks, that they’re probably also looking to use Chinese-owned platforms that have exposure to the west for the same purpose – while tensions between western governments and China, over the war in Ukraine, spy balloons, etc., are also not helping TikTok’s case.
There’s a fairly clear correlation between Chinese influence programs and social media platforms, and China has more linkage to TikTok, one of the biggest entertainment platforms in the world, than any other.
It’s not the only reason, but when you see the scale of such efforts in Google’s reports – and consider that this is only one platform, and their findings on this front – you can get some sense of the potential issue at hand that security officials are warning against.
You can check out Google’s latest TAG Bulletin here.